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O’Malley: Md. marriage campaign ‘is in good shape’

Maryland governor said pro-Question 6 campaign needs to raise an additional $400,000 before Election Day

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Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade
Martin O'Malley, gay news, gay politics dc

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley stressed the campaign defending his state’s same-sex marriage law is “in good shape.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told journalists during an Oct. 31 conference call that the campaign defending his state’s same-sex marriage law needs to raise roughly $400,000 to ensure Question 6 passes on Election Day.

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“We’re now about $400,000 away from having on hand what we need to have, so this last push is critically important,” he said. “We continue to raise dollars, and the interest in this question continues — more and more people are becoming interested in this, so I appreciate your coverage on it. And hopefully with your coverage of what you’re doing and what the campaign we’ll be able to get the word out and rally people to this cause.”

Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s Oct. 12 campaign finance report noted it had raised slightly under $3.3 million. O’Malley said the pro-Question 6 group has raised another $1.5 million since he spoke with LGBT bloggers and journalists during a Sept. 24 conference call. This figure includes the $1,205,392.87 that Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised between Oct. 8-21, according to its latest campaign finance report it filed with state election officials on Oct. 26.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes Question 6, raised only $846,865.23 during the same period.

“We have one week to go,” said O’Malley. “The campaign is in good shape.”

The governor noted both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun have endorsed Question 6. He further referenced Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings who told the Washington Blade last week he plans to vote for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

O’Malley also pointed out Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Obama as among Question 6’s most prominent local and national supporters.

“All of that said, we still have a lot of work to do,” said the governor.

A Goucher College poll released on Oct. 29 found 55 percent of Marylanders support marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state, compared to 39 percent who oppose them. A Baltimore Sun survey conducted between Oct. 20-23 found only 46 percent of respondents would vote for the law. A Washington Post poll published on Oct. 18 noted 52 percent of Maryland voters support Question 6, compared to 42 percent who said they oppose it.

“We always expected this race to tighten up,” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, during the call. “What we’ve always said is that we expect this to be a very close race, which is why we’re asking so much of our volunteers and our supporters both in terms of the fundraising and the volunteering on the ground.”

N.H. MARRIAGE EQUALITY AT STAKE IN GUBERNATORIAL RACE

Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Maryland Marriage Alliance continue to air television and radio ads for and against Question 6 in the Baltimore and D.C. media markets. Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s latest campaign finance report indicates the group spent $2,044,748 on media between Oct. 8-21, compared to slightly more than $1 million of air time the Maryland Marriage Alliance bought during the same period.

O’Malley predicted the National Organization for Marriage will come into Maryland with what he described as a “last minute infusion” of money in the campaign’s final days. The governor said the bulk of these funds will go towards anti-Question 6 television ads.

“They’re the same ads you’ve seen in other states [with same-sex marriage campaigns;] ads even some of those that ran the ads admitted were false,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley also responded to the Blade’s question about Rev. Robert Anderson of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown who suggested during an Oct. 19 town hall meeting at a Baltimore church that those who don’t vote against Question 6 “are approving these things that are worthy of death.” Reverend Phillip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif., described gay men as “predators” who seek to indoctrinate children during an anti-Question 6 gathering at another Baltimore church on Oct. 21 that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland Marriage Alliance Chair Derek McCoy and roughly 100 others attended.

“That sort of rhetoric is going to be rejected by the people of our state,” said O’Malley. “We are a very diverse state, ethnically and also religiously. And we’re a people who understand that we’re all in this together. And that sort of rhetoric of fear and division and vilifying people that are not like us for whatever reason is not the sort of thing that builds consensus in Maryland.”

Levin reaffirmed his belief the campaign has had what he described as “a pretty good week or two here” despite Superstorm Sandy that forced Marylanders for Marriage Equality to cancel volunteer activities on Oct. 29.

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Campaign supporters spoke with friends and family about Question 6 during the storm after they made sure they were safe. Levin also noted the campaign saw “a lot of support” for Question 6 over the weekend at early vote locations across the state before Sandy forced officials to postpone early voting for two days.

“At this point it is sort of all hands on deck raising those last few dollars as you said and getting as many volunteers together as we can for Election Day to help us have a presence at the polls, to help us get out our voters and help us spread the word about Question 6 coming down to the very end,” he said. “The good news is that we continue to see what I think is momentum.”

O’Malley agreed.

“The bottom line is this; we’re doing well,” he said. “We need to continue to work hard. We have a real shot at prevailing here. Our message is getting through thanks to the good work and help of a lot of people. This is about fairness. This is about equality. This is about respecting the human dignity of every individual and making sure that our laws protect religious freedom while also protecting every individual equally under the law-in other words that no family’s home should receive lesser protections under the law than another family’s home.”

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame

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Paul Hazen

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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