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Gay couple spearheading marriage efforts in Md.

Gerry Fisher, a Life Coach and his husband David Kimble, have taken steps to help ensure marriage equality becomes law effective Jan. 1

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Gerry Fisher, David Kimble, gay news, Washington Blade

Gerry Fisher and David Kimble are working to preserve Maryland’s marriage equality law. (Photo by Steve Charing)

While efforts are underway by Marylanders for Marriage Equality to fight the November referendum attempt by opponents of same-sex marriage, some LGBT people and allies are anxious to get into the fray on their own. Gerry Fisher, a Life Coach and his husband David Kimble, have taken steps to help ensure marriage equality becomes law effective Jan. 1.

One of the early initiatives was the establishment of a Facebook page called “Marriage Equality Information Exchange-Maryland.” Currently there are about 700 members. Fisher and Mike Bernard are administrators of the page.

On this page, like-minded individuals can discuss a variety of grassroots techniques to gain support for the movement. It is a “closed” group, meaning that other Facebook users can see the existence of the group and members but not the contents. The page is intended “to build community, share strategies for marriage-equality signature gathering and other events, post documents and pictures, and to inspire one another.”

Members post related articles and announce events including signature-gathering activities at farmers markets, rallies, festivals, such as Hon Fest, Orioles games and other venues around the state where crowds typically form. The signatures are part of the strategy by MfME to obtain as many “pledges” as they can for compiling a database, which will be used as a means of communicating with voters, fundraising, recruitment of volunteers and get-out-the-vote drives.

“It was our goal to set up an online presence similar to the ones we saw in the Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) campaign and with MassEquality. Something that connected local activists so that they could organize locally more efficiently,” explains Fisher. “We also hoped that some areas of the state could share ideas and information with other areas of the state, so there’d be a cross-pollination of ideas, across geography and across subgroups.”

Shortly after the creation of the Facebook page, Fisher and Bernard were contacted by MfME. “We quickly agreed on a few concepts: the Facebook page does not speak for the campaign and that we’d emphasize positive messaging about love, commitment, and family. Based on that agreement, we began a partnership with the campaign.”

Fisher adds, “Mike and I are team leaders for MfME; we’re in every-other-day contact with the MfME director for Baltimore. We collect signatures for the campaign, and we encourage our membership to participate in MfME volunteer efforts and events.”

However, Gerry Fisher and husband David Kimble are going beyond social media to attract activists. They are working to hand out stickers, amass signatures and chat with supporters at the Waverly Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. They are seeking leaders to work the downtown and Canton farmers markets as well.

In addition, until the election, the couple will be hosting an open house in their Charles Village residence at 2721 Guilford Ave., Baltimore every Friday night.

“The purpose of the ongoing open house is to provide a space for people to meet, get support, have a laugh and vent some steam, get information, talk informally, brainstorm ideas, strategize, announce events, pick up supplies (pledge sheets, stickers), connect across a diverse set of subgroups within the community, and begin the process of ‘having conversations’ that we’ll take with us back out into our daily lives,” explains Fisher.

For those who cannot make it to Baltimore, the couple can be contacted through Skype. Refreshments, such as soda, lemonade and light snacks will be available. BYOB. For more info, contact Gerry at [email protected] or 410-949-7888.

Working with MfME is imperative. “This effort is helping the grassroots to find its voice and use it, to get on its feet and move, that will provide the campaign with the foundation from which to organize,” says Fisher.

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

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 Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue

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Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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