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Former NOM president: Marriage is not a ‘civil rights issue’

Gallagher assailed by activist after panel discussion

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Former National Organization for Marriage President Maggie Gallagher (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

BALTIMORE—The co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage stressed on Tuesday that marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.

“I’m here today to urge you to join with your friends and neighbors and your fellow citizens to vote no on Question 6 precisely because I do not believe that gay marriage is a civil rights issue,” said Maggie Gallagher, who lives in Montgomery County, during a League of Women Voters’ panel on the Nov. 6 referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law at Morgan State University. “Marriage has existed not just in the state of Maryland but all over the globe for thousands of years as a union of male and female for a simple reason: These are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mother and their father. Marital unions have that capacity.”

The debate took place at the historically black university shortly after Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group supporting Question 6, unveiled its first television ads that feature Rev. Donté Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton in Prince George’s County. Both men joined Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent black clergy last month who urged congregants to support Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

“The question is whether or not we as a state are going to continue to treat all people in the state of Maryland — citizens of Maryland — equally and fairly under the law. And that’s what Question 6 or ballot Question 6 is all about,” said state Del. Keiffer Mitchell (D-Baltimore City) who spoke on behalf of Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “It’s about treating all our citizens fairly and equally under the law. What Question 6 does is simply allow gay couples to go to a court house to file to receive a civil marriage license in order to be married.”

A Baltimore Sun poll released late last month shows 49 percent of likely Maryland voters support the state’s same-sex marriage law, compared to 39 percent who oppose it with 10 percent undecided. A Gonzalez Research poll released earlier in September indicates 51 percent of Marylanders would vote for Question 6, compared to 43 percent who would oppose it.

The same survey noted that 44 percent of black Marylanders back nuptials for gays and lesbians, compared to 52 percent who oppose same-sex marriage.

Mitchell noted that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board of directors passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage after President Obama publicly backed the issue during an interview with ABC News in May. The NAACP of Maryland and the civil rights organization’s Baltimore City and Prince George’s County chapters have also urged their members to support Question 6.

“We may not literally force your clergy to perform marriage, but what we found in other states is that you can be expected fairly rapidly to be treated the way we treat, the way government treats, people who oppose equality,” said Gallagher. “We stigmatize, we marginalize, we oppress racists because racism is wrong. But in my view, this traditional understanding of marriage across different races, creeds and colors is not evil. It’s not discriminatory. It’s good. You need to bring together male and female to make inroads in the next generation. That’s the heart of the classic understanding of marriage. And it’s the heart that gay marriage will change. And it will change it not just for gay people. It will change it for every citizen in the state of Maryland.”

Mitchell pointed out NOM’s strategy to use marriage as a wedge issue to further divide black and gay voters.

“This is a civil rights issue. I am proud of a family that I come from of pioneers that set the way in terms of civil rights. And one of the lessons that I’ve learned from speaking with my uncles, parents and my grandparents, great-grandmother and others was that civil rights in the African-American community we do not have a monopoly on,” he said. “We have to continue to move forward and we just can’t get our rights and then kick the ladder away and say we have ours, you fight for your own.”

Rev. Meredith Moise, who co-chairs Baltimore Black Pride, confronted Gallagher over her reference to African same-gender marriage ceremonies to further promote tribal lineages as she walked off the stage after the forum.

“As a student, a former student and alumnus of this beloved university having said this to this man [Mitchell] whose family shed blood and died for the rights of all people is anathema. And shame on you,” she said. “And for you to support it and propagate hate in the black community. Shame on you. No human being has the right to divide people of African blood on this issue. We will remain one people.”

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Nellie’s fires security firm after woman dragged down stairs

Pride weekend incident triggers protests, investigation by liquor agency

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Keisha Young was dragged down the stairs by her hair at Nellie’s. (Screen capture via Instagram)

Nellie’s Sports Bar, a gay bar in the city’s U Street commercial district, announced on Monday that it has dismissed a security company whose employee was captured on video dragging a Black woman down a flight of stairs inside the bar during the city’s Capital Pride celebration last Saturday.

The video of the male security employee dragging Nellie’s customer Keisha Young down the staircase and the brawl that erupted when other customers intervened has triggered expressions of concern by city officials and LGBTQ activists, including the local Black Lives Matter group that organized a protest outside Nellie’s on Sunday.

Young, who said she was injured during the incident, has said the security staffer mistakenly thought she was part of a group of customers who brought into the bar their own alcoholic beverages, which Nellie’s does not allow.

“Nellie’s Sports Bar has terminated, with immediate effect, the independent security vendor hired to protect our guests during Pride Week,” Nellie’s said in a statement released to the media.

“Our investigation into the matter is ongoing, and we will cooperate with any law enforcement investigation, however we do not need to wait for the investigation’s conclusion before we take decisive action,” the statement says. “We offer a heartfelt apology to all who witnessed the horrific events of this past weekend,” it says. “No matter what behavior occurred prior, nothing warrants mistreating and disrespecting one of our guests.”

The statement adds that Nellie’s will be closed this week “as we evaluate this regrettable situation.” It says all non-security staff will continue to be paid their regular wages during the temporary shutdown.

“In the interim, we will use this time to listen and understand what more we can do to create the safe and friendly atmosphere our guests have come to expect from Nellie’s Sports Bar over the past 14 years,” the statement says.

Brandon Burrell, an attorney representing Young, told D.C.’s Fox 5 News that Nellie’s had yet to offer an apology directly to Young. Fox 5 News reported on Monday that Young was considering filing a police report over the incident and a possible lawsuit against Nellie’s depending on how Nellie’s responds to Young’s concerns. 

A D.C. police spokesperson told the Washington Blade that Young had not contacted police to file a report about the incident as of early Monday.

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which issues liquor licenses to bars and restaurants, has opened an investigation into the Nellie’s incident, the agency confirmed to Fox 5 News.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the local group that organizes D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events, including Saturday’s Pride Walk and Pridemobile Parade, issued a statement on Monday expressing concern over the Nellie’s incident.

“The Capital Pride Alliance condemns the reprehensible actions taken by Nellie’s staff over the weekend,” the statement says. “The incident resulted in Keisha Young being dragged by the hair down the stairs, which was a violent response to the trivial action of allegedly bringing into the bar a bottle of liquor,” the statement says.

“Capital Pride Alliance is committed to creating safe spaces for all,” says the statement. “We expect Nellie’s to take immediate, remedial action in response to this incident. Their response will impact the future of CPA’s relationship with Nellie’s.”

Nellie’s owner Doug Schantz couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also expressed concern about the Nellie’s incident when asked about it by reporters at an event on Monday.

“Obviously, entrepreneurs enforce rules in their restaurants, but they’re not allowed to assault anybody,” the mayor said. “If that’s a matter for the Metropolitan Police Department, we’ll take it up.”

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New gay bar ‘Central’ to open in Baltimore this summer

Just a few blocks from where Grand Central closed last year

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Marc Hayes and Ivan Yordanov inside the new Central. (Photo by Ed Gunts)

Fans of the old Grand Central club in Baltimore will get a new place to patronize this summer, and it has a familiar name and operator.

Central is the name of a gay bar and restaurant that’s expected to open in August, just a few blocks from where Grand Central closed last September. One of its owners is the former general manager of Grand Central, Marc Hayes.

Baltimore’s liquor board last week approved a request to transfer an existing Beer, Wine and Liquor license to Hayes, from Baltimore, and business partner Ivan Yordanov, from Alexandria, Va.

The location is a three-building complex at 885-889 N. Howard Street, part of a block called Antique Row on the western edge of Mount Vernon, the city’s traditional “gayborhood.” Over the years, the Howard Street buildings have housed a series of clubs and lounges, most recently Bentley’s jazz club.
Grand Central closed after original owner Don Davis sold the property at 1001-1003 N. Charles Street to a developer, Landmark Partners, that’s now constructing an eight-story office building in its place. Its last day was Sept. 3.

Started in 1991 as Central Station at 1001 N. Charles St. and renamed when Davis bought the old Stagecoach Bar at 1003 N. Charles St., Grand Central was one of Baltimore’s largest gay-friendly clubs and remained busy on weekends even after Landmark acquired the property. Patrons called it ‘Central’ for short. It was required to close temporarily during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic but did offer outdoor and carryout service when permitted.

Hayes, the last general manager of Grand Central for both Davis and Landmark, had indicated before it closed that he wanted to find another place for patrons to go once construction of the office building began.

He said the Howard Street business is not a relocation of Grand Central because Landmark isn’t involved and Landmark owns the rights to the name and other intellectual property associated with Grand Central.

“We’re not Grand Central,” he said. “This is going to be Central. This is going to be an LGBTQIA-friendly place, but not using the Grand Central intellectual property.”

Hayes said he and Yordanov chose the name Central because the Howard Street buildings are centrally located between Leon’s and The Drinkery, two other gay bars in Mount Vernon.

“We are central,” he said. “We’re in a triangle.”

Even if it doesn’t have a legal connection with Grand Central, Hayes said, he will welcome its former patrons, as well as people who have never been to Grand Central. And while he’s billing it as a gay bar, he said, “I don’t see gender or race in anybody.” He describes himself as gender fluid and Yordanov as an ally of the gay community.

The three buildings date from around 1900 and are connected internally. Together, they contain more than 6,200 square feet of space on two levels – large but less than half the 15,000 square feet of space inside the two buildings that made up Grand Central.

Hayes and Yordanov are leasing the property and received a letter of support for the liquor license transfer from the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association. They still need to pass inspections required by the liquor board and intend to hire a staff of about 20. They plan to have a dance floor and DJs, Sunday brunch, drag shows and other live entertainment as well as a full-service kitchen.

The interior has a long wooden bar that’s reminiscent of Grand Central’s, a series of lounges and dining areas, and some exposed-brick walls with arches that impart an air of history and allow views from one area to another. The main dance floor will be on the second floor, including one space where the walls are covered with mirrors.

Hayes said the building doesn’t need much in the way of renovations and since it’s actually three addresses, there’s already a separate entrance for carryout orders. He said he considered other locations but liked the ambiance, layout and location of this property. “I’ve always liked this building,” he said. “Grand stairwell. Wrought iron…It’s gorgeous. Look at the arches.”

The bar will be open from 4 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Sundays, when Central will serve brunch. The carryout will open daily starting at 11 a.m. Central will have a cover charge when there are shows.

While many gay bars have closed around the country during the pandemic, Hayes said he believes there’s a market for a new one in Baltimore. He notes that Central will be different from the Baltimore Eagle, which caters to the leather community; the tavern-style bars without live entertainment, and The Manor, an “ultralounge” in a meticulously restored townhouse on Charles Street.

“We’re not The Manor, obviously. They’ve got a fantastic chef and fantastic food and we’re going to be doing bar food” with a relaxed atmosphere and DJs. But Central will offer more in the way of food service and entertainment than the tavern-style bars around the city.

That’s another reason the name they chose makes sense. Given the other options in town, Hayes said, “We’re kind of right in the middle.”

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Delaware prepares to celebrate Pride month

Parade moved to October, but smattering of local events planned

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Delaware trans student policy, gay news, washington blade
Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a Pride month proclamation earlier this month.

As state coronavirus restrictions continue to lift, organizations throughout Delaware are gearing up for Pride month with events planned during June.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery dedicated its June Beer and Benevolence philanthropic effort to benefit CAMP Rehoboth, an LGBTQ+ non-profit community center in Rehoboth. The fundraising began last weekend at Chesapeake and Maine and the organization will receive 10 percent of proceeds from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Delaware Pride Parade is scheduled for Oct. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

June 19: Delaware Pride Bowling at Bowlerama
The Delaware Pride Bowling event is June 19 from 7-10 p.m. The New Castle Avenue Bowlerama will charge $15 per bowler and free shoes for the two hour time slot.

June 18: Stand-up Comedy by Julia Scotti
Trans comedian and America’s Got Talent quarterfinalist Julia Scotti will perform standup comedy at the Milton Theater. Admission is $17.

June 20: From Stonewall To Now – Presented By Mona Lotts
Milton Theater will host “From Stonewall To Now,” a celebration of the art of drag hosted by Mona Lotts. Admission is $20 and will feature performances from several drag queens from the state.

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