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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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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

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A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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