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New pro-gay congressman could emerge in Md.

Controversial Dem redistricting plan threatens Rep. Bartlett’s re-election

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Roscoe Bartlett, John Delaney, gay news, Washington Blade

Ten-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) (left) faces his toughest challenge yet thanks to a redistricting plan. His challenger is businessman John Delaney.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series profiling congressional districts in which the incumbent is not supportive of LGBT rights. The articles seek to assess the chances of electing a supportive candidate to help advance pro-LGBT bills that have been stalled in Congress.

LGBT advocates are hopeful that the long-stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, will become one step closer to passage next year if a Democratic challenger unseats Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) in the once staunchly conservative 6th Congressional District.

Businessman and political newcomer John Delaney won the Democratic primary earlier this year to become his party’s challenger to Bartlett in a newly reshaped district that now includes a majority of Democratic voters, prompting most political observers to call him the frontrunner.

Delaney, who supports Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, is committed to becoming a co-sponsor of several LGBT rights bills pending in Congress, including ENDA, according to Will McDonald, his campaign press secretary.

Bartlett voted against ENDA when an earlier version of the bill came up before the House in 2007 and passed by a vote of 235 to 184. It died later that year when the Senate refused to take it up. It has been bottled up in committee since that time.

Based on his vote on ENDA and his refusal to back other LGBT supportive legislation, the Human Rights Campaign gave Bartlett a “0” rating in 2010 on LGBT-related issues.

HRC is expected its issue its next congressional ratings for the 112th Congress covering 2011-2012 in October. Capitol Hill observers say Bartlett doesn’t appear to have changed his views on LGBT issues since the last rating period.

Lisa Wright, press spokesperson for Bartlett’s congressional office, and Ted Dacey, spokesperson for Bartlett’s re-election campaign, did not respond to a request for comment on the congressman’s record on LGBT issues.

Wright said Bartlett has not released an official statement on the upcoming voter referendum in Maryland seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this year. She said she would seek to obtain Bartlett’s view on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues but didn’t get back by press time.

McDonald said Delaney has also pledged to become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or other same-sex unions such as domestic partnerships or civil unions.

HRC and Maryland State Dels. Heather Mizeur and Bonnie Cullison, both Democrats and out lesbians, are among the groups and individuals that have endorsed Delaney.

“John Delaney will be a strong ally of the LGBT community in Congress in contrast to his opponent who has earned consistent zeros on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, an HRC spokesperson. “This is a critical race toward building pro-equality majorities in Congress.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland, said the group doesn’t endorse congressional candidates or get involved in those races.

“Equality Maryland PAC only endorses in state and local elections,” she said. “With almost 200 state legislative races the PAC only can do so much and being a statewide group the priority is state races.”

Political observers familiar with the history of ENDA say Maryland’s 6th Congressional District to some degree has been typical of districts throughout the country where incumbent House members have not been willing to support the bill. ENDA and earlier versions of the bill have been pending in Congress for more than 30 years.

The version of ENDA that passed in the House in 2007 called for banning employment discrimination based only on sexual orientation, which would have covered gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The current version of the bill includes a gender identity provision that covers transgender people. It has the strong backing of LGBT activists.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Pelosi and fellow House Democratic leaders chose not to bring the trans-inclusive ENDA up for a vote in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats had a majority in the House, because they didn’t believe they had the votes to pass the measure.

This week Hammill said Pelosi believes ENDA could pass next year if Democrats are able to win the additional 25 seats needed to regain their majority and control of the House.

“We think there’s a good chance that will happen,” he said.

But other political observers and ENDA supporters, including congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), have said Democrats cannot regain a majority without relying on a dozen or more moderate to conservative Democratic candidates or incumbents in conservative-leaning swing districts who are capable of attracting moderate to conservative voters.

“That’s the political reality we face,” Norton has told gay activists in the past.

Norton and other LGBT supportive members of Congress, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s gay and the lead sponsor of ENDA in the House, have called on LGBT advocates to do the necessary work to change the hearts and minds of the relatively small number of moderate to conservative leaning Democrats, along with some Republicans, needed to pass ENDA in the House and Senate.

Prior to the redistricting that the Maryland Legislature approved last year in a highly controversial move, the 6th District consisted mostly of the state’s northwestern counties of Garrett, which borders on West Virginia; and Allegany and Washington counties, which border on conservative-leaning southern Pennsylvania.

The district was by far the most conservative of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Bartlett has represented the district since 1993 after winning election in November 1992 at the age of 65 as a retired scientist, part-time dairy farmer, and former professor at the University of Maryland. He is now completing his 10th term in office at the age of 85, becoming the second oldest member of the House.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, Bartlett, who has a bachelor’s degree in theology and biology and a Ph.D. in physiology, was among the state’s first House members to join the Tea Party Caucus in 2010. He has emerged as a strong conservative but has bucked fellow conservatives and Republicans on some issues that touch on science. He has said he believes global warming is a potential threat and he backs efforts to promote renewable energy, the Almanac reports. However, it says he also was among 33 Republicans to oppose renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Bartlett has never been among the corps of outspoken House members that actively oppose LGBT rights. But Cooper said Bartlett’s refusal to co-sponsor or express some support for bills like ENDA has promoted Log Cabin to choose not to endorse him this year and in past years.

Noting that Bartlett voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Cooper said, “Our members in Maryland have so far not sought our endorsement of him. He doesn’t have a record that would merit our endorsement in the past.”

Sources familiar with Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, meanwhile, say that while Bartlett hasn’t indicated an inclination to change his views on LGBT issues, many of his constituents in western Maryland have changed their views on those issues.

“My sense is we’ve come a long way since Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays in the military in the 1990s,” said Timothy Magrath, political science professor at Frostburg State University, which straddles the border of Garrett and Allegany counties. “I sense there is a lot more progressive thinking all across the region,” he said. “My sense is it won’t hurt a congressional candidate to support ENDA or other bills of that kind.”

Magrath and others familiar with the 6th District point out that the radical change in the demographics of the district brought about last year by redistricting have made it possible to defeat Bartlett rather than persuade him to change his views on LGBT equality.

The boundary changes, which have outraged Maryland Republican leaders, created a new 6th District where 58 percent of its electoral precincts voted for President Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Prior to redistricting, GOP presidential contender John McCain won in the district by capturing 59 percent of the vote in 2008. George W. Bush won 64 percent of the vote in the previous incarnation of the district in 2004.

The Democratic-controlled Maryland Legislature, with strong support from Gov. O’Malley, brought about the demographic changes, among other things, by adding nearly 350,000 mostly liberal Democratic voters from Montgomery County.

Republican leaders responded by organizing a petition campaign to place the state redistricting plan on the ballot in a voter referendum in November in the same election that Delaney is expected to win the 6th District seat. A spokesperson for the State Board of Elections told the Blade that if voters overturn the redistricting plan Delaney would most likely take his seat in Congress while the legislature drafts a new redistricting plan to take effect in time for the 2014 congressional election.

“This is unprecedented,” said election board official Ross Goldstein.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Katie Murphy- ex catholic family

    August 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Bartlett has a degree in MYTHeology. No wonder. The earth is still flat in his mind

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McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy

Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.

When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”

This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.  

HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)

Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.

“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.

Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”

But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.

“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”

McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.

Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.

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Black gay man hopes to ‘shatter lavender ceiling’ in Annapolis

Keanuú Smith-Brown is running to unseat Ward 3 incumbent

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Keanuú Smith-Brown (Photo by David Hartcorn)

Keanuú Smith-Brown, who is affectionately called KSB by his friends, is running to unseat incumbent Annapolis Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-Ward 3) and become the first out LGBTQ elected official in the city.

“Keanuú is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling in Annapolis, becoming the first out LGBTQ person ever elected in the city,” Victory Fund Vice President of Communications Elliot Imse told the Washington Blade.

Smith-Brown, a 26-year-old substitute teacher, announced in February that he was challenging Pindell Charles, who has represented his ward since 2013. They will face off in a Democratic primary on Sept. 21, then the winner advances to the general election on Nov. 2.

The Annapolis native is the eldest of six siblings, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate who describes himself as a proud Black gay man. His opponent, also a Democrat, stated on an Annapolis Pride survey that she supports the LGBTQ community, just “not overtly.”

“But his candidacy is about more than just making history,” Imse said. “When in office, Keanuú will ensure the interests of the LGBTQ community are considered in every policy discussion and every piece of legislation that comes before the council.”

Smith-Brown told the Blade he is running to represent “those who have been left out,” emphasizing that “there is an urgent need for change in our ward.”

The Annapolis native first came out as gay while still a senior in high school, the same year Pindell Charles was first elected as his Ward 3 representative.

“I grew up surrounded by drug addiction and witnessed domestic violence both in my family and in my community,” he told the Blade, sharing he was raised by a single mom while his father was incarcerated during most of his life.

He still lives in the home in which he grew up, and within five minutes of his partner’s house “if you’re driving fast.”

After graduating from the University of Baltimore in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy, Smith-Brown began working with legislators and advocating for LGBTQ bills in Maryland.

As president of the District 30 Democratic Club, Smith-Brown advocated for House Bill 1147 and its companion Senate Bill 401, which were both similar to neighboring D.C.’s requirement for single-occupancy bathrooms to be marked gender-neutral.

Both bills died in committee during the General Assembly’s pandemic-shortened session in 2020, but Smith-Brown’s advocacy continued.

He marched during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and he continued to be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and visibility as a member of Annapolis Pride.

“I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies and events, even hosting a campaign ‘Love with Pride and Unity’ Drag Brunch,” Smith-Brown wrote in response to Annapolis Pride’s first LGBTQ-issues survey. “I helped organize for Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions.”

Pindell Charles, by contrast, in her survey response stated she did not consider her advocacy for the LGBTQ community to be “overt.”

“My support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer,” she wrote. “One-on-one, rather than as a group, or public displays.”

FreeState Justice, Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization supports public advocacy.

“It’s extremely important for LGBTQ community members to participate in civic engagement — especially as elected officials,” Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade in an email.

FreeState Justice has encouraged LGBTQ Marylanders to speak out at public hearings in support of legislation such as the state’s “panic defense” ban, waiving the publication of name change petitions and the establishment of a state commission on LGBTQ affairs. All of these measures passed during the 2021 legislative session.

“There is such immense power for our community that can be built at the grassroots level. From leading neighborhood associations to sitting on city councils, or representing the community in the General Assembly,” said Smith-Brown. “As the world changes, so do the ways in which issues disproportionately or uniquely impact the LGBTQ community, especially for our youth, elders, trans and Black siblings.”

Pindell Charles, who did not respond to the Blade’s requests for comment prior to publication, is a retired Baltimore City prosecutor and chairs the Annapolis City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee.

During her time in public service, her advocacy included a variety of “groups and communities considered to be ‘underrepresented,’” according to her Annapolis Pride survey response.

Smith-Brown said Ward 3 deserves better.

“She is saying this is in a position of power, that she’s not willing to get out of her comfort zone,” he told the Blade. “You may not be okay with seeing two men or two women together, but when you don’t allow yourself in your position to be inclusive of all people you are now failing in your position.”

“If someone said that about the Black community, it would not be taken in the same way,” he added. “Admit that you don’t need to be here in this way. We can all do our best to do better.”

The Capital Gazette in February reported Pindell Charles intends to run for a third term and welcomes Smith-Brown’s challenge.

“We need to win this,” Smith-Brown said, encouraging LGBTQ and all voters to get out and vote. “My being at that seat at the table means that we are all in that seat. What is it they say? If I eat, we eat. That is the impact on our future, and I’m in it to win it.”

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LGBTQ Democrats briefed on D.C. ranked choice voting bill

Council may already have enough votes to pass it

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Stein Club, gay news, Washington Blade
Jatarius Frazier of the Capital Stonewall Democrats was among officials briefed on the ranked choice voting bill. (Photo courtesy D.C. Government)

Members of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, received a briefing Monday night from the chief of staff for D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) on a bill she introduced in July calling for a “ranked choice” voting system for D.C. elections.

The bill, called the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021, calls for D.C. to join about 50 other jurisdictions across the country, including New York City and San Francisco, in giving voters the option of ranking up to five candidates for a particular office in the order of their preference.

Under the ranked choice voting system, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the “first choice” votes, the candidate is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives greater than 50 percent of the first-choice votes in a race where there are three or more candidates, the system provides an instant runoff.

“The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate will have their votes count for their next choice,” according to a statement released by Henderson at the time she introduced the legislation. “This process continues in rounds until there’s a majority winner,” the statement says.

T.J. Maloney, Henderson’s chief of staff, told Capital Stonewall Democrats members during a virtual Zoom meeting that studies of the ranked choice voting system in jurisdictions where it has been adopted show that overall voter turnout has increased and, following a voter education process, voters appear to adjust and support the system.

Six other D.C. Council members joined Henderson in co-introducing the VOICE ranked choice voting bill, indicating it may already have a seven-vote majority in its favor on the 13-member Council. However, Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) does not support the current version of the bill, according to spokesperson Lindsay Walton.

Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee where the bill was sent and one of the bill’s co-introducers, has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for on Nov. 18. The hearing, which will be virtual, will be broadcast live on the Council’s website.

Last week, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which is the governing body of the D.C. Democratic Party and of which the Capital Stonewall Democrats is an affiliated member, voted to oppose the VOICE Act legislation. Some of its members said they believe a ranked choice voting system would be beneficial to the city’s smaller political party candidates, including Republicans and Statehood Green Party candidates, and would place Democratic Party candidates at a disadvantage.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in the 2020 D.C. Democratic primary, said he favors a simple runoff election system over a ranked choice voting system in cases where multiple candidates run, and none receive at least 50 percent of the vote.

Among the ranked choice bill’s supporters is gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. Naughton told the Washington Blade he is not an expert on the ranked choice voting system but his initial research into the system leads him to believe the system has the potential for providing a greater electoral voice for minority communities, including possibly the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ candidates who run for public office.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier said the group was in the process of learning more about the ranked file voting system. No one raised the issue of the group taking a position on the legislation at Monday night’s meeting.

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