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Religious leaders urge Md. voters to support marriage law

Clergy spoke at Baltimore and Silver Spring press conferences on Thursday

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MacArthur Flournoy, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
MacArthur Flournoy, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality speaks in support of Question 6 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 18. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Maryland and D.C. clergy on Thursday urged voters to support the state’s same-sex marriage law during press conferences in Baltimore and in Silver Spring.

“We’re here today to support voting for Question 6,” said Rev. MacArthur Flourney, faith director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group defending the law, outside St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring. “At the end of the day, we see this as about justice and equality. Really this is about fairness. This is about a matter of the state, civil law protecting all families under the law.”

Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia echoed Flourney during the Silver Spring press conference.

“We cannot in good conscience deny to our gay and lesbian friends and family the same opportunity for companionship, for marriage and for family that we claim for ourselves,” she said. “That is why I support the Civil Marriage Protection Act and will vote for Question 6 this November, as will my congregants.”

Reverend Matt Braddock, senior minister at Christ Congregational United Church of Christ in Silver Spring, spoke about how he and his wife recently celebrated their wedding anniversary at a local restaurant as he urged Marylanders to vote for Question 6.

“My faith believes that the Bible celebrates human expressions of love and partnership and call us to live out that gift of God in responsible, faithful, committed relationships that respect the image of God in all people,” said Braddock. “My faith believes that laws which fail to recognize gay and lesbian marriages contribute to a climate of misunderstanding and division and increased hostility against gays and lesbians and it’s unacceptable. My faith affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should offer civil marriages to all couples who want to share fully and equally in the rights and responsibilities and commitments of legally recognized marriage.”

The press conferences took place the same day Marylanders for Marriage Equality released a new web video that features Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton in Prince George’s County and other prominent black faith leaders from across the country who back Question 6. A Washington Post poll released on Thursday indicates 52 percent of likely Maryland voters would support the state’s same-sex marriage law in the Nov. 6 referendum.

A Maryland Marriage Alliance ad that features Dr. Angela McCaskill, the Gallaudet University administrator suspended earlier this month for signing the petition that prompted a referendum on the same-sex marriage law Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March, claims those “who believe in traditional marriage have been punished.”

The clergy who attended the Silver Spring press conference declined to answer questions about the ongoing controversy over Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz’s decision to place McCaskill, who is the D.C. university’s chief diversity officer, on administrative leave. Coates maintained that the law protects religious freedom.

“The Civil Marriage Protection Act allows us to make sure the government protects all families and all residents of our state equally under the law and at the same time provides sufficient language that allows religious institutions to define the religious rite of marriage in accordance with their beliefs and practices,” said Coates. “There is nothing in the Civil Marriage Protection Act that forces any individual religious clergyperson or religious congregation to perform a same-sex marriage if it’s against their beliefs and practices and yet the legislation ensures that the state protects all residents of our state equally under the law.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, acknowledged Baltimore Archbishop Bill Lori and other area Catholic bishops oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples. She said she is voting for Question 6 because “it nourishes my own moral development.”

“As we grow in the moral right, we sometimes have to make conscience decisions that are at odds with the leaders of our religious denomination,” said Gramick. “I do respect the position of the Catholic bishops on this question, but I disagree with them and I disagree with them because my conscience tells me so. My conscience tells me that social justice teaching in my church… supports equality and dignity for every individual. And so I can apply that social justice teaching of my church to the question of civil marriage for lesbian and gay people. This is not a question of church doctrine. It’s a question of public policy. And in this area of public policy I respectfully disagree with the bishops of my church.”

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington that includes Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties, also acknowledged these differences. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins are among those scheduled to attend a “Marry Protection Rally” at New Harvest Ministries, Inc., in Baltimore on Sunday.

“We know that religious leaders and communities are not of one mind when it comes to marriage equality, said Budde. “It’s important to remember that the Civil Marriage Protection Act strongly preserves religious freedom. No clergyperson will ever be forced to preside at a wedding for anyone. No faith community will be required to go against their religious beliefs.”

Budde also referenced her own faith during the Silver Spring press conference.

“Jesus taught us to love one another as God loves us, not to judge one another and that all human beings are created in God’s image,” she said. “Jesus also taught us that we know one another by our fruits and I can personally testify to the loving example of countless gay and lesbian couples who have been an inspiration to me and my husband in our marriage. And so I am thrilled to stand here in support of Question 6 and invite all Maryland voters to vote yes. If they do, countless Marylanders will be so overjoyed. This is a matter of decency and fairness.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry speaks in support of Question 6 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 18. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. John Deckenback

    October 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks to Matt Braddock for representing us.

  2. GMB

    October 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Susan Grossman is not a Rabbi and she is not a religious leader. Jewish law explicitly forbids perverted marriages like these.

  3. RCS

    October 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Temples and Synagogues all have gay clergy and congregants. Furthermore, they all conduct gay marriage ceremonies, as well, and fully recognize gay marriages as being valid.

  4. RCS

    October 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    There are two weeks left to support marriage equality in Maryland.

    You can look up Marylanders For Marriage Equality on Google, go to its website and make a donation.

    Be sure to vote FOR on Question 6 if you live in Maryland and tell everyone you know to do the same.

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “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.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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