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Maryland groups launch campaign to promote same-sex marriage, Dream Act

Activists joined politicians and undocumented LGBT immigrants at CASA de Maryland’s offices in Hyattsville



A coalition of LGBT and Latino advocacy organizations on Tuesday formally unveiled a new campaign designed to garner additional support for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Through the Familia es Familia Maryland initiative, CASA de Maryland and the Latino GLBT History Project will continue to work with LGBT Latinos and their families to publicly talk about nuptials for gays and lesbians ahead of the November referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law. Equality Maryland will seek undocumented LGBT immigrants to discuss the state’s Dream Act, which is also on the ballot as Question 4, with gay and lesbian Marylanders.

“For all those who work on achieving equality for LGBT Marylanders, it is imperative that we work for all LGBT Marylanders, including those who are undocumented,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, during a press conference at CASA de Maryland’s offices in Hyattsville. “We must speak up for what is right and what is fair.”

Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro referenced her gay younger brother Pedro, who came out to her and her sister 17 years ago.

“I am here for my brother Pedro… and for all the brothers and sisters, the daughters, the sons, the cousins, the uncles, the aunts, everybody who we call family. I am here to urge our Latino community to never forget that,” she said. “We have an opportunity to stand up and give a gift — the gift of dignity and pride and respect and civility to our loved ones. So I am here, very proud to support marriage equality, very proud to stand up for Question 6.”

Gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) shared a similar message as he stood alongside Navarro, lesbian state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and other advocates.

“This November, we have a big opportunity as voters in the state of Maryland to truly embrace the future of our state, to understand where we are going, to make sure that every family has a chance to have equality under the law and that every young person who we’re educating has a chance to realize their dreams,” he said. “We have an opportunity to embrace a future that means respect and dignity for all families. We have an opportunity to embrace a future that says every person has a responsibility and opportunity to get an education.”

A Gonzales Research and Marketing poll in January found that 48 percent of Marylanders support the state’s Dream Act, while a Hart Research Associates survey last month shows that 54 percent of Marylanders would vote for the same-sex marriage law in November. An Arcus Foundation-funded survey that the National Council of La Raza and Social Science Research Solutions commissioned in April indicates that 54 percent of Latinos support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Ivette Roman came to the United States from Perú with her brother when she was 10. The Silver Spring resident said she planned to go to college after graduating from Northwood High School last year, but could not afford it because her immigration status prevented her from receiving financial aid. Roman, 20, also noted that her mother did not speak to her for months after she came out to her as a lesbian.

“She asked me to forgive her,” she said, referring to how her mother eventually came to accept her sexual orientation. “From that day on, she was going to support me in all the decisions I made, no matter what they were. That’s why I’m here today, trying to change and fight for my future and many other undocumented LGBT students to have the same rights as any other Marylander. And I am here to encourage the LGBT community to stand with me as i pursue my dream.”

George Boe Ramirez and German Roa of Rockville met in New York City 17 years ago. They told the Blade before the press conference that they would like to get married in Maryland once same-sex couples can legally tie the knot in the state.

“It’s our home,” said Ramirez. “I’d like the opportunity to invite my brother and sister from New York to come down and share it with us.”

He further described the Dream Act as the “natural next step” towards equality.

“We want the Latinos in our community to get the same education everyone else can and become productive parts of society,” said Ramirez.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing



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(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’



A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126



The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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