Connect with us

Local

Md. congressional delegation backs marriage

Majority of lawmakers support state law; Cummings ‘on a journey’

Published

on

Elijah Cummings, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Elijah Cummings, whose district includes Baltimore City, said in a statement released Wednesday, “The Maryland Legislature has spoken. I respect its decision and will not oppose it. It’s now up to the voters to decide whether to uphold the law.”

Maryland’s two Democratic senators and five of its eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives either support or won’t oppose the state’s same-sex marriage law, which will go before voters in a referendum on Nov. 6.

In response to a Washington Blade survey, the offices of Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Reps. Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer, John Sarbanes, and Chris Van Hollen – all Democrats – said the lawmakers strongly support the same-sex marriage law.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), whose district includes Baltimore City, said in a statement released Wednesday, “The Maryland Legislature has spoken. I respect its decision and will not oppose it. It’s now up to the voters to decide whether to uphold the law.”

The state’s remaining three House members, Republicans Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris and Democrat C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, did not respond to the Blade’s inquiries seeking their position on the marriage law.

Bartlett, who has represented a district in Western Maryland considered to be the most conservative and Republican-leaning part of the state, received a “0” rating on LGBT-related issues from the Human Rights Campaign in the 111th Congress spanning the years 2009-2010. HRC doesn’t release its ratings for the current Congress spanning 2011-2012 until September or October.

Harris, who represents the Republican-leaning Eastern Shore section of the state, is serving in his first term, after defeating Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the 2010 election. HRC won’t have a rating for him until it releases its 2012 ratings later this year.

Ruppersberger, considered a moderate Democrat, represents a district that includes the Baltimore suburbs and surrounding counties. LGBT activists in Maryland have expressed disappointment that he hasn’t co-sponsored any of the LGBT rights legislation that his fellow Democratic House members in the state have backed, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. HRC has given him an overall rating of 75 on a rating scale of 0 to 100.

Cummings, while not coming out directly for the marriage equality law, received a HRC rating of 100.

“We’re pleased a majority of the Maryland congressional delegation support the state’s new marriage law that protects religious freedom,” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group leading the campaign to uphold the law in the referendum vote.

In an earlier statement released to the Blade last week, Cummings said that while he would not interfere with the “will” of the state legislature on the same-sex marriage law, he added, “I support civil unions, which would ensure that people who care for one another will be able to jointly purchase property, assign Powers of Attorney, make decisions about healthcare for one another, and establish other essential contractual relationships.”

In the statement he issued on Wednesday, June 27, Cummings did not mention civil unions.

“Like many of my friends and colleagues, I have been on a journey when it comes to supporting same-sex marriage,” he said in his statement. “When you come from a religious background where you’ve been taught all your life that marriage is between a man and a woman, and then you find yourself looking at how a society is changing and how many in your own community are seeing the issue in terms of fairness and equality, it makes you re-think your position,” he said.

“I identify with, for instance, President Obama’s evolution on the topic,” Cummings said.

Last month, Obama announced his full support for marriage equality, saying his evolution on the issue was completed.

Political observers in Maryland, meanwhile, note that changes in the state’s congressional districts based on the required 10-year reapportionment due to population changes has significantly altered Bartlett’s district. Observers say a Democrat now has a shot at defeating Bartlett, who is serving in his 10th term.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

District of Columbia

D.C. officials vow to fight any GOP effort to ban abortion in nation’s capital

Without statehood, District vulnerable to congressional interference

Published

on

D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton vowed to fight to protect abortion access in the city. (Blade file photo by Drew Brown)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and six members of the D.C. Council said they were united in fighting an attempt by Congress to ban abortions in the nation’s capital following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

At a press conference on the day the Supreme Court handed down its controversial decision, the D.C. officials pointed out that unlike any of the states, D.C. is vulnerable to the authority Congress has over the city under its limited Home Rule Charter, including the authority by Congress to pass a law to ban abortions in the city.

The press conference was held at the headquarters in Northeast D.C. of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., whose leaders said they would continue to provide abortion services in the District at the present time.

At this time, “Nothing has changed in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said at the press conference. “Abortion remains legal, and women and girls we know, however, are worried,” the mayor said. “We are worried because we know we are vulnerable as a jurisdiction because of our lack of statehood.”

Norton told news media representatives and others attending the press conference that she expects at least some congressional Republicans to introduce legislation to ban abortions in D.C. now that the Supreme Court has given them the authority to do that.

“We are subservient still to the House and Senate,” she said. “I’m calling on the Congress to immediately codify the right to an abortion in federal law,” Norton said. “That is the very least the District needs to save this city from what will surely be an attempt by Republicans in Congress to move first on the District of Columbia to make sure that abortions are not available for women in our city.”

Norton added, “We always have more work cut out for us than other jurisdictions. But I assure you I am up to the task. There is a lot to fight for here, and I’m ready for that fight.”

Norton and Bowser also pointed out that Congress over a decade ago added a permanent provision to D.C.’s annual budget that prohibits the city from using any of its funds to pay for abortions either directly or through the funding of private organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion related services.

With the prospect that Republicans might regain control of the House or Senate or both in the November congressional elections, D.C. officials said they were especially concerned about an attempt to ban or greatly restrict abortions in the city.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said he was hopeful that such an attempt would be blocked by a Democratic-led filibuster in the Senate as well as by a presidential veto if President Biden or another Democrat continues to occupy the White House.

Bowser, Mendelson, and D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) also pointed out that the legal reasoning used by the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, especially the rationale given by Justice Clarence Thomas, could be used in future cases to overturn previous court rulings establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the right to intimate sexual acts between same-sex couples.

“We are about to enter into decades of darkness with this court that we have,” Cheh said at the press conference. “And don’t be fooled. We’re told, OK, it’s just abortion,” she said. “Don’t you believe it. The very reasoning of the case – and I spend a lot of time teaching constitutional law – means that many other liberties will be in jeopardy.”

LGBTQ rights advocates have pointed to the concurring opinion handed down by Justice Thomas on the day the court overturned Roe v. Wade that specifically calls on the high court to “reconsider” the 2003 ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults, both gay and straight. Thomas’s concurring opinion also called for reconsidering the high court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Others speaking at the June 24 press conference included Laura Meyers, president of Planned Parenthood of the D.C. area, and D.C. Council members Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). 

Continue Reading

Virginia

Va. delegate comes out as bisexual

Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler spoke at Hampton Roads Pride

Published

on

(Public domain photo)

Virginia state Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) came out as bisexual on June 25 during an appearance at Hampton Roads Pride in Norfolk.

“I’m bisexual,” the Virginia Beach Democrat told Pride attendees. “I just never felt like I could say that out loud.”

Convirs-Fowler has represented Virginia’s 21st House District since 2018.

State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) is gay and state Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) is a lesbian. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

“For those who don’t know, Del. @FowlerforVA and I are both part of the Class of 2017 #RedToBlue legislators who flipped seats that Nov. 7,” tweeted Roem on Monday. “We’ve both earned re-election twice since then and I couldn’t be more proudof her declaration of Pride =).”

Continue Reading

Virginia

Equality Loudoun hosts its first Pride celebration

‘Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder’

Published

on

A scene from Loudoun Pride on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year after a controversial brawl between parents and administration officials regarding the implementation of trans-friendly policies in public schools in Loudoun County, Va., a local LGBTQ organization hosted its inaugural Pride festival in solidarity with the area’s LGBTQ community.

“Pride means a chance to show this county that the loud voices who have been standing against LGBTQ equality do not represent the voices of [everyone] in the [county],” said Cris Candiace Tuck, president of Equality Loudoun. “[A lot of us] here believe in equality.”

Equality Loudoun hosted its Pride celebration on June 26 at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va. 

When planning for Pride month festivities, the organization designed the events to reflect the diverse interests and identities of Loudoun County’s queer population. There was a wide collection of vendors selling Pride merchandise, advocacy non-profit organizations and musical acts featured on the main stage. 

There was also a “Loudoun Pride Drag Stage” event where the “hottest of Loudoun Royalty” showcased their musical talents. 

“We want everyone to … recharge emotional batteries that have been drained,” said Tuck.

Planning Equality Loudoun’s Pride festival did not come without its fair share of surprises. Initially, the organization had planned for a smaller event. However, when more individuals began showing interest, the organization was forced to switch to a bigger venue to allow more vendors to attend.

“We had many vendors call in and we had to turn a [number] away,” said Tuck.

The organization planned its festivities in 90 days, two weeks during which it raised $45,000 — three times as much as it had originally expected.

Equality Loudoun has its sights set on getting LGBTQ community members and allies connected to the resources the organization offers through education and health advocacy.

“Pride [will always be] a celebration of our heritage,” said Tuck. “It’s a moment to recognize what we have gained and lost.”

Tuck said that ideas for next year are already underway.

“Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder and brighter,” he said.

Click HERE to see more photos from the event.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]