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Clergy rally for Md. same-sex marriage bill

Extol religious protections in the measure

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As fellow clerics look on, Catholic nun Sister Jeannine Gramick celebrates the Md. civil marriage bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a show of support for the Civil Marriage Protection Act being considered by the Maryland Judicial Proceedings Committee at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Marylanders for Marriage Equality gathered a group of sympathetic clergy at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis at 9:30 a.m. to push the legislature to pass the bill.

Roughly two dozen clergy gathered with several of the bill’s supporters, lawmakers and same-sex couples that would be affected by the bill prior to a lobbying effort at the capitol.

During the final prayer of a morning breakfast, Baptist minister Rev. David Gilmore told the group, “Yes I am a traditional black baptist minister — I don’t always think like a baptist,” he continued, however.

The minister hoped that his views would spread to his fellow Baptists. “God will open the minds of the rest of the baptist community,” he said.

After a breakfast punctuated by prayers for the success of the bill, Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, introduced a select group of the clerics who spoke passionately in favor of the bill.

“I have colleagues in this state that are concerned about religious exemptions in the marriage equality legislation before the state assembly,” said Rabbi Daniel Berg of Baltimore, the first of the clergy to speak. “I am here to tell you that I am also a man of faith. I am also a servant of God, and my belief is that God doesn’t want any of us to live a life of shame, inequality or fear.”

“God does not wish for us to condemn a portion of humanity to secrecy or celibacy or worse,” Berg said, referencing the book of Genesis. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Rev. Starlene Joyner Burns of SJB Ministries emphasized that there is no difference in love between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. “The only thing that’s missing here in Maryland is that they cannot legally get married and provide the kind of protection that marriage and a certificate can bring,” Rev. Burns said. “That piece of paper that’s meaningless to some has a whole lot of meaning to those who can’t get it.”

Rev. Burns discussed the discrimination faced by same-sex couples in accessing survivor’s benefits. “We need change and we need it now.” “Religious freedom and marriage equality can and do go hand in hand.”

Episcopal priest Angela Shepherd asserted that support of marriage equality is a matter of civic good. “Many of us maintain our love for humanity by agreeing to disagree and therefore causing no harm,” Rev. Shepherd told the gathering. “However there is a wider venue that encompasses family and faith communities and that is the civic arena.”

Shepherd spoke about the pressure lawmakers were feeling from religious leaders opposed to the bill.

“Unfortunately some supportive elected officials have been threatened by a few religious leaders who are opposed to this bill,” Shepherd said. “Our separation of church and state is being compromised.”

“Same-gender couples have built lives that are grounded in love,” Shepherd concluded. “At heart of this matter is that four-letter word: love.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Catholic nun who has worked for LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church since the 1970s, and Dr. Jeffery McCune who also spoke, discussed the changing definition of families throughout history, and the importance of religious leaders welcoming all.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Marriage is sacred, and that is exactly the reason why I as a rabbi and as a religious person support marriage equality,” Rabbi. Berg said. “The bill before the General Assembly will in no way force you to bless same-sex unions, but yours is not the only authentic religious perspective.”

At 1 p.m. today both supporters and opponents of the bill will be given time to testify before the Senate committee on behalf of their constituencies. Each side will be given two hours to offer their arguments. Supporters of the bill expected to testify include some of the clergy that attended this morning’s rally, same-sex couples, children of gay parents and progressive leaders including representatives of the ACLU Maryland and the 1199 SEIU local.

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, June 21, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 68.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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