Connect with us

Local

Black clergy back Md. same-sex marriage law

Al Sharpton and others spoke at downtown D.C. press conference

Published

on

Rev. Delman Coates, Rev. Al Sharpton, clergy united for marriage equality

Rev. Delman Coates (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of prominent black clergy today urged Maryland voters to support the state’s same-sex marriage law in the November referendum.

“As pastors and clergy leaders, we are here today to declare our unequivocal support for Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act and to dispel the myth that all African American pastors are fundamentally opposed to the idea of marriage equality,” said Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor of the 8,000 member Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., during a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington. “For too long the issue of equal treatment under the law for gay and lesbian couples has been mired in a theological debate between those on the one hand who oppose same-sex marriage based upon their religious beliefs, and those on the other who affirm it based upon theirs. And while this is a legitimate discussion for people of faith to have, the appropriate arena that conversation is the house of worship, the seminary, the Bible study or some other religious setting.”

Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., echoed Coates. He noted during the press conference that many of his congregants live in Maryland — specifically Prince George’s County.

“I will impress upon my membership to vote yes on this issue on the Nov. 6 ballot referendum simply because this act is civil, not religious,” Wesley said. “In no way [does] it [infringe] upon our religious freedom as an institution to define marriage as we would, to perform the rite of marriage according to our doctrinal believes nor in the same way does it infringe upon the state to protect the civil liberties of all its residents.”

Rev. Christine Wiley of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in D.C.; joined Rev. Brad Braxton of Open Church and Rev. S. Todd Yeary of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore; Rev. Frederick Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas; Rev. Otis Moss, III, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago; Rev. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and others at the press conference.

Reverend Dr. Christine Wiley, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ

Rev. Christine Wiley (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, applauded Coates and other black clergy for their support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

“This is not an issue about gay or straight,” said Sharpton at the press conference. “This is an issue about civil rights and to take a position to limit the civil rights of anyone is to take a position to limit the civil rights of everyone. You cannot be a part-time civil rights activist. You cannot be for civil rights for African Americans, but not for gays and lesbians.”

This announcement comes less than two months before Marylanders will vote in the referendum on the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March.

A Hart Research Associates survey conducted in late July found that 44 percent of black Marylanders would support Question 6, compared to 45 percent who would oppose it. A Public Policy Polling survey in May found that 55 percent of the state’s black voters support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Benjamin Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is among the prominent black leaders who have backed Question 6. Same-sex marriage advocates and others have noted that both President Obama’s support of nuptials for gays and lesbians and the NAACP Board of Directors’ resolution in support of the issue have had what they describe as a positive impact on public opinion among black voters.

Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s Branch of the NAACP, appeared in a new web ad earlier this week in support of Question 6. The civil rights organization’s Maryland State Conference and Baltimore affiliates have also backed same-sex marriage, while other black supporters of nuptials for gays and lesbians appeared in a separate web ad that Marylanders for Marriage Equality released in July. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville remains one of the most prominent Question 6 opponents.

Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group defending the state’s same-sex marriage law, conceded in a fundraising pitch to supporters on Thursday that his group has only been able to purchase a week’s worth of television air time “in some places so far.” This admission comes on the heels of what he described as the “four weeks of commercial time on TV stations across Maryland” that Question 6 opponents have already bought.

“Our opponents are smart, well-funded and willing to play on the politics of race and fear in order to win,” wrote Levin in the e-mail that stresses Marylanders for Marriage Equality needs to raise $500,000 over the next two weeks to counter these ads. “And we know from past experience in other states that if we let them have the airwaves to themselves, we will lose.”

Sharpton noted to the Washington Blade during the press conference that he appeared in an ad ahead of the same-sex marriage bill’s passage in February.

“One thing I’ve never been accused of being is bashful,” he said when asked if Marylanders for Marriage Equality had asked him to appear in a pro-Question 6 spot. “I’ll do whatever because I see this as a civil rights issue.”

“This is a full court press,” Coates said. “In the remaining days and weeks leading up to Nov. 6, there are a variety of strategies that we can do and engage in across the state to educate further persons, to educate Marylanders about what this is about and what it is not. This is a full-court press and we’re creating strategies.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

Published

on

Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

Published

on

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

Continue Reading

Virginia

Youngkin mum on whether parents should report teaching of LGBTQ topics

Republican governor on Monday touted tip line during an interview

Published

on

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has yet to clarify whether the governor is encouraging parents to report educators who are teaching LGBTQ-specific topics.

The Washington Post reported Youngkin on Monday during an interview with John Fredericks on “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” referenced a tip line that parents can use to report the teaching of “divisive” subjects.

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations [to] help us be aware … of their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia, and we’re going to make sure we catalogue it all,” Youngkin told Fredericks, according to the Post.

Fredericks co-chaired former President Trump’s 2016 campaign in Virginia.

Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter on Tuesday did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the tip line.

The first executive order that Youngkin, who is a Republican, issued after he took office on Jan. 15 ended “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia public schools) and other “divisive concepts” in the state’s classrooms.

Youngkin during his campaign against Terry McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin has named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

Republicans control the House of Delegates by a 52-48 vote margin. Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) has 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 Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) has put forth Senate Bill 766, which would ban trans students from school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. State Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) has sponsored House Bill 1126, which would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools.

Democrats have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill in the General Assembly.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular