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O’Malley defends marriage bill at Md. House hearing

Dozens testify for and against Civil Marriage Protection Act

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Martin O'Malley, gay news, gay politics dc

Gov. Martin O'Malley testifies before the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee in favor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley remained firm in his support for a bill to legalize same-sex marriage Friday during a contentious joint hearing on the bill before two committees of the state’s House of Delegates.

After O’Malley and two prominent black ministers testified in support of the bill, the three were grilled with questions by two of the bill’s strongest opponents, Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) and Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County).

The two delegates disputed O’Malley’s claim that the bill would protect the religious rights of those who say same-sex marriage conflicts with their faith and asked the governor to support new language in the bill that would clear it for an immediate voter referendum.

“I think the people have already spoken in a real sense by sending each of you here to make the decision on this issue,” O’Malley said in response to the delegates’ calls for a referendum.

“It is not right or just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state,” he said in his testimony in support of the bill. “Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.”

He added, “This bill balances equal protection of individual civil marriage rights with the important protection of religious freedom for all.”

O’Malley and the two ministers who sat beside him at the witness table, Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., and Rev. Donte Hickman Sr., pastor of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, were the first three of dozens of witnesses expected to testify at the hearing.

The hearing, which was conducted jointly by the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee and Health and Government Operations Committee, began at 1:15 p.m. and lasted until close to 11 p.m.

Some witnesses opposing the bill expressed concern that House Speaker Michael Busch broke tradition by adding the Health and Government Operations panel to join the Judiciary Committee in overseeing the bill after determining that support for the bill in the Judiciary panel was waning and supporters may not have the votes in the committee to send it to the House floor.

Under House rules, the bill would be sent to the full House for a vote if one of the two committees votes to approve it.

Dwyer and Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), one of the strongest opponents of same-sex marriage in the legislature, came to the witness table to testify as the first opposing witnesses at the hearing.

While speaking as a witness, Dwyer presented a documentary style video to the committee that alleged that legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts forced school children to undergo “indoctrination” in public schools on homosexuality.

The video included an interview of the father of an elementary school student who said he was arrested and jailed for staging a one-person protest against the school policy.

Same-sex marriage supporters in Massachusetts and Maryland have characterized as untrue claims that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to school curriculum changes. They say curricular changes to address issues of sexual orientation in Massachusetts were under consideration before same-sex marriage became legal in the state and would likely have been adopted even if Massachusetts didn’t legalize same-sex marriage.

Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County), one of seven out gay members of the Maryland Legislature, disputed Dwyer and Parrott on the school curriculum question during the hearing, saying “not a syllable” could be found in the Civil Marriage Protection Act that would change school curricula.

Burns, in referring to O’Malley’s contention that the marriage bill protects religious freedom, called such a claim irrelevant, saying legal recognition of same-sex marriage would be a disaster for children, families and all people of faith in the state.

“I don’t want your protections,” he said. “I don’t need your protections. I don’t want the bill.”

Similar to a hearing held on the marriage bill on Jan. 31 by the State Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, many of the same witnesses, including ministers and other clergy, testified on Friday and appeared to be evenly divided, with more than a dozen clergy members testifying on both sides of the issue.

“Regarding the rite of marriage, the practice of our local church is rooted in our understanding of the history and etymology of the term matrimony,” said Rev. Coats, who testified in favor of the bill at O’Malley’s side. “Therefore, wedding ceremonies witnessed and presided over at our church acknowledge the union of a man and a woman in a sacred ceremony,” he said.

“With that said, I am here today to express my full support of the proposed Civil Marriage Protection Act as proposed by the governor,” he said. “As a matter of public policy, I believe it is the obligation of the state to insure that all of her citizens are protected equally under the law.”

Hickman said, he too, believes the bill adequately distinguishes civil marriages from religious marriages.

“I believe that marriage is a God-ordained, spiritual and mystical union between a Christian man and a Christian woman,” he said. But he added, “I support the Civil Marriage Protection Act because it is civil and not religious. And as a matter of public policy and human rights it doesn’t threaten my religious convictions nor does it obligate me or my church to officiate or promulgate same-sex marriages.”

O’Malley appeared to respond with caution to Parrott’s repeated questions about whether a same-sex marriage bill in Maryland would lead to the teaching of homosexuality to elementary school students in the state’s public schools.

“In Massachusetts this same bill forced teachers to teach same-sex marriage to their students even when it violated their own religious beliefs,” Parrott told the governor. “Are you OK with that in this bill?”

“No, and I don’t believe that’s what this bill does,” O’Malley said.

“Historically, parents do not have the right to pull their kids out of classes when it violates their religious teachings regarding marriage and family,” Parrott said. “Actually some of them have gone to jail in Massachusetts. Are you OK with that consequence to this bill?”

“No, I’m not aware of that and that is not in this bill,” O’Malley replied. “There are specific, clear prohibitions against forcing any religion to change or teach things that are contrary to its religious beliefs.”

Parrott ended the exchange by asking O’Malley if he would be inclined to amend the bill to “specifically protect students, teachers and parents so that [homosexuality] is not taught in the school system.”

O’Malley replied, “I think that anything that reinforces the inalienable and indispensible right of the free exercise of religions and individual conscience is a good thing.”

The governor’s press spokesperson couldn’t be immediately reached to clarify whether O’Malley was suggesting he might support new language in the bill to ban the teaching of gay-related subjects in the state’s school system.

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District of Columbia

Wanda Alston Foundation chosen as Casa Ruby receiver

Judge approves move at recommendation of D.C. Attorney General

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June Crenshaw is the Wanda Alston Foundation’s executive director. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday, Aug. 12, appointed the Wanda Alston Foundation as the city’s receiver for the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby in a role in which the Alston Foundation will assume full control over Casa Ruby’s operations and finances.  

Judge Danya A. Dayson stated in an order she issued at 2:27 p.m. on Friday that she appointed the Alston Foundation for the receivership role at the recommendation of the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which asked the judge to place Casa Ruby in receivership in a court motion filed on Aug. 3.

Founded in 2008, the Wanda Alston Foundation provides housing and support services for D.C. homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 and advocates for expanded city services for LGBTQ youth, according to a statement on its website.

During a virtual court hearing on Thursday, Aug. 11, Dayson approved the AG office’s request to place Casa Ruby under receivership. During the hearing, Adam Gitlin, chief of the AG office’s Public Integrity Section, announced that the AG office had two organizations under consideration for the Casa Ruby receiver – the Alston Foundation of D.C. and the Baltimore-based LGBTQ services organization Safe Haven, which has announced it planned to open a facility in D.C.

Gitlin asked the judge if the AG’s office could have one more day to make a final decision on which of the two groups should be named as the Casa Ruby receiver, and Dayson granted his request.

Among those who spoke at the Aug. 11 hearing was June Crenshaw, the Wanda Alston Foundation’s executive director. Crenshaw told the judge her organization has long supported the mission of Casa Ruby and it was prepared to do all it could to continue that mission in its role as receiver.

In a seven-page order issued on Aug. 12 approving the AG’s recommendation that the Alston Foundation be appointed as receiver, Dayson restated her earlier findings that the AG’s office provided sufficient evidence that a receivership was needed. Among other things, she pointed to the AG office’s allegations that Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado violated the District’s Nonprofit Corporations Act. 

“The District alleges in its petition that Defendant violated the Act by failing to maintain a lawfully constituted Board of Directors, failing to maintain control and oversight of the Corporation; permitting Ruby Corado, the executive director, to have exclusive access to bank and PayPal accounts held in the name of, or created to benefit, Casa Ruby; and permitting Corado to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars of nonprofit funds without Board oversight and for unknown reason,” Dayson stated in her order.

“Accordingly, it is on this 12th day of August 2022 hereby ORDERED that the District’s motion for appointment of a receiver is GRANTED, and it is FURTHER ORDERED that until further order of this court, the Wanda Alston Foundation, Inc., 1701 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036 (the “Receiver”), is hereby appointed as Receiver,” Dayson declared.

Dayson stated in her Aug. 12 order that she has “hereby lifted” her Aug. 3 order granting the AG office’s request that Casa Ruby’s bank accounts and all financial assets be frozen. The Aug. 12 order states that the receiver will now have full control over the bank accounts and Casa Ruby assets.

But the judge adds in her latest order, “Notwithstanding the lifting of the August 3, 2022, freezing Order, Ruby Corado shall not regain access to the affected accounts.”

In addition, Dayson “further” states in her Aug. 12 order that Casa Ruby’s “trustees, directors, officers, managers, or other agents are hereby suspended and the power of any directors or managers are hereby suspended. Such persons and entities shall have no authority with respect to Casa Ruby’s operations or assets, except to the extent as may hereafter be granted by the Receiver.”

The order concludes by directing the receiver to prepare a written report to the court by Sept. 13, 2022, on these issues:

• Assessment of the state of Casa Ruby’s assets and liabilities

• Identification of potential D.C. grant funds that could still be accessed if Casa Ruby met the grant requirements and how Casa Ruby could meet those requirements

• Determine whether Casa Ruby can pay outstanding financial obligations, including but not limited to employees, landlords, and vendors

• A recommendation regarding whether Casa Ruby’s Board should be reconstituted, and it should resume providing services, or instead whether Casa Ruby should be dissolved in an orderly manner pursuant to D.C. Code.

Corado also spoke at the Aug. 11 virtual hearing through a telephone hookup. Among other things, she said she does not oppose the appointment of a receiver.

But Corado disputed the AG office’s allegations against her and Casa Ruby, claiming the group’s financial problems that resulted in its shutdown of most Casa Ruby programs were caused by the D.C. government’s decision to discontinue many but not all city grants providing funding for Casa Ruby.

In its court filings, the AG’s office has disputed Corado’s claims, saying the city grant funds for many of Casa Ruby’s programs were suspended or discontinued because Casa Ruby failed to comply with the grant requirements that all city grantees are obligated to comply with.

“The mission of the Wanda Alston Foundation is to eradicate homelessness and poverty for LGBTQ youth between ages 18 and 24, the group states on its website. The statement adds that the Alston Foundation seeks to accomplish that mission by advocating for LGBTQ youth by “providing programs including housing, life skills training, case management services, linkages to medical care and mental health care and other support services, support in staying and returning to school, and employment support.”

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District of Columbia

Another gay couple assaulted in D.C. in suspected hate crime

Two men holding hands when hit from behind by group of attackers

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Chuck Johnson (left) and J.P. Singh were assaulted in June. (Photo courtesy the couple)

A gay male couple informed the Washington Blade this week that they were assaulted by a group of young men on June 17, at least of one of whom shouted the word “faggots,” while the couple was holding hands walking home on the 1500 block of T Street, N.W. a few doors away from their house.

One of the two men suffered a broken jaw and fractured thumb when two or three of the attackers punched and kicked him in the head and face after knocking him to the ground, according to a D.C. police report that lists the incident as a suspected anti-gay hate crime.

The incident took place about six weeks before another gay male couple was attacked and punched in the head and face by a group of young males appearing in their late teens as at least one of them shouted “monkeypox faggots.” The incident occurred on Aug. 7 along the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W. in the Shaw neighborhood as the men were walking to a nearby bus stop.

D.C. police, who have released photos of two suspects in the Aug. 7 incident and a photo of one suspect in the June 17 case, say no arrests have been made in either of the cases but both cases remain under active investigation.

The two victims in the June 17 case identified themselves as J.P. Singh, Professor of Global Commerce and Policy at George Mason University, and Charles D. “Chuck” Johnson Jr., CEO and President of the Aluminum Association industry trade organization. They initially identified themselves in a little-noticed article about the incident that they wrote and published on June 23 in the blog Medium in which they also posted a photo of themselves.   

“We, JP and Chuck, are a middle-age interracial gay couple,” the two wrote in the article. “We have been together for nearly 27 years, and live in a gay neighborhood in Washington, DC.  On Friday, June 17, while walking back from the gym at 10 p.m. and holding hands, a group of young African American men assaulted us on our street,” the two wrote.

Their article goes on to explore issues surrounding racial justice and crime, and the possible impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on police response to crime, including anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, among other related issues.

 “Assaults like ours open wounds in our society around race and LGBTQ issues,” they state in the article. “Through writing this article, we want to emphasize context and healing, and not encourage racialized ways of thinking that we associate with divisive tactics.”

Singh told the Blade the incident began on T Street, N.W., steps away from their house and in front of the house of gay D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kyle Mulhull. He said a group of the attackers approached him and Johnson from behind and the couple didn’t see the attackers until they were struck with punches.

“Before we knew it, I heard Chuck yell,” Singh said. “And when I turned to him, I felt a punch on my ear.”

According to Singh’s account, the attackers ran toward 15th Street and Johnson ran after them presumably to be able to inform police of their location, with the intent that the attackers could be apprehended.

But Singh said that another group of attackers emerged from an alley and appeared to have joined the first group and began assaulting Johnson again. The D.C. police report says officers responding to a 911 call from Johnson arrived on the scene when Victim 1, who was Johnson, was observed at the intersection of 15th and U Streets, N.W.

“The officers observed that Victim 1 was bleeding from his mouth as a result of the assault,” the report says. The report says the officers call the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department for assistance.

“Victim 1 stated that he and Victim 2 were walking eastbound in the 1500 block of T St., N.W. when 4 to 8 suspects approached from behind and assaulted them with punches,” the report continues. “Victim 1 stated that at least one of the suspects yelled homophobic slurs at him as the assault was perpetrated.

Singh said he accompanied Johnson to the emergency room where he was treated and underwent surgery two days later to treat his jaw, which was broken in two places. Singh said Johnson was also treated for a fractured thumb.

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Comings & Goings

Brian Reach joins Arlington Food Assistance Center

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Brian Reach

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 Brian Reach on his new position as Associate Director of Marketing and Communications of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Reach has more than 18 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and deep roots in Northern Virginia.  

Charles Meng, CEO of AFAC said, “I’m very pleased to have Brian Reach on our staff as we enter a new and very challenging year. A year when even more families suffering from inflation in food and fuel are coming to our doors seeking help.” 

Jolie Smith, director of development at AFAC added, “Brian will be a wonderful addition to the AFAC development team as we start our new year with a strong focus on new opportunities outside of Arlington County. Given his experience, he’ll be a significant part of our new growth and development.”  

Reach previously worked at MCI USA (formerly The Coulter Companies) in a number of positions including director of Information Systems and Credentialing. Before that he was with the Interstitial Cystitis Association as its nonprofit coordinator/accounts receivable coordinator; and the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, Fairfax, Va., as Education coordinator.

Reach is an activist and leader in the LGBTQ community. He currently serves as president and executive director of NOVA Pride, a 501c3 he founded in 2011, as well as on other LGBTQ boards and task forces. A Northern Virginia local, whose grandparents met at Fairfax High School, he is extremely passionate about the area and is personally dedicated to making an impact on the lives of his neighbors in need. He has worked on political campaigns in Virginia for Jennifer Wexton, Justin Fairfax, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, Chap Peterson, and Al Gore.

Reach is currently attending George Mason University and was a business major at Northern Virginia Community College.

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