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Clergy speak out against Md. same-sex marriage law

Religious leaders gathered at Beltsville hotel four days before Election Day

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Maryland Marriage Alliance, Derek McCoy, Question 6, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Maryland Marriage Alliance, Derek McCoy, Question 6, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Marriage Alliance Chair Derek McCoy speaks during Beltsville press conference on Friday with dozens of clergy against Question 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BELTSVILLE, Md.—Dozens of religious leaders from across Maryland and D.C. gathered in Prince George’s County on Friday to express their opposition to Question 6.

“We’re all here today not because of what we’re against, but because of what we’re for,” said Rev. Frank Reid of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore during a press conference at the Sheraton Washington North Hotel in Beltsville.

He stressed Question 6 opponents have dealt with the issue “very positively” and “tolerantly” without “putting anybody down or calling anybody names.” Reid added there is what he described as confusion going into Election Day.

“The first confusion is this is not just a Question 6 election,” he said. “This is also a presidential election. And there are many who want to confuse us and say that if you vote for this or against this you are voting for or against a certain party or a certain candidate. That is not true. This is a faith and freedom issue and it is possible to vote for a candidate and vote for or against Question 6, so we don’t want any confusion that we are here against one candidate or for another candidate. That is not our concern. Our focus is very clear on Question 6: Vote against Question 6 and then vote for whatever candidate you want.”

Bishop Angel Nuñez of Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore questioned whether Question 6 will protect religious freedom as Gov. Martin O’Malley, Revs. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and others who support the law continue to maintain.

“It seems like the language in the ballot goes out of its way to convince voters that churches will not be affected. In reality, non-profits, individuals and private businesses are at risk,” said Nuñez. “In the actual law, it is clear that any church that receives state funds is not safe.”

Reverend Pierre Bynum of the Family Research Council argued Catholic Charities was forced to end adoptions in several states because they refused to place children with gay parents. He said more than 60,000 people have signed a petition urging Gallaudet University to reinstate Dr. Angela McCaskill, a senior administrator who remains on administrative leave for supporting the referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

“The problem is we’re going to see that over and over and over times thousands,” said Bynum. “Since just this petition went out to give people an opportunity to vote, there’s so many different things that have taken place including all of the people who signed the petition having their names published in a newspaper and getting telephone calls and visits from people who are antagonistic toward them.”

A Goucher College poll released earlier this week 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 noted only 46 percent of respondents would vote for the law.

Benjamin Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and NAACP Chair Emeritus Julian Bond have both pointed out Question 6 protects religious freedom.  

Reverend Alfred Deas, Jr., of Metropolitan AME Church in Cumberland disagreed with the civil rights organization’s support of Question 6 and marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“I unfortunately believe that they have stepped out on I believe the wrong side of history,” he said, noting he took part in the 1963 March on Washington with a local NAACP chapter. “It is not a civil rights issue. Gays have not gone through what we’ve gone through. And to compare the two is just wrong.”

The press conference also took place two weeks after Rev. Robert Anderson of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown suggested during a town hall meeting on Question 6 that those who practice homosexuality and approve it are “deserving of death.” A California pastor described gay men as “predators” who seek to indoctrinate children during an anti-gay marriage gathering that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Maryland Marriage Alliance Chair Derek McCoy, Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and roughly 100 others attended at a Baltimore church on Oct. 21.

McCoy again defended Anderson when the Washington Blade asked him and other assembled clergy to respond to criticisms over what Question 6 supporters maintain is the use of homophobic rhetoric against the law.

“Nobody here endorses violence, endorses bullying of any sort in any stance,” said McCoy. “We stand collectively to love our community, to love the constituents who are in our churches and within our broader community in the state of Maryland.”

He said those who criticized Anderson’s use of scripture to speak against Question 6 misinterpreted his remarks.

“As a matter of fact, we believe when Dr. Anderson was using that, it was taken grossly out of context,” said McCoy.

Pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr., of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro acknowledged the church has not previously “responded well to the homosexual lesbian community.” Reid referred to Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University who asked on MSNBC shortly after President Obama publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples whether those within the black church who oppose the issue want to become “sexual rednecks.”

“That kind of language has no place in America,” he said. “We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Father Erik Arnold of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Pastor Anthony Maclin of the Collective Empowerment Group in Riverdale, Jackson and an imam from the Islamic Center of Washington were among those who also attended the press conference.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Toni

    November 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Frank Reid is the role model for marriage? Please.

  2. Thom Watson

    November 3, 2012 at 1:46 am

    "He stressed Question 6 opponents have dealt with the issue 'very positively' and 'tolerantly' without 'putting anybody down or calling anybody names.'".

    Right… because that whole "gay people and their supporters are worthy of death" spoken by another Maryland pastor just weeks ago, while the other panelists nodded, applauded and laughed, is the height of positivity and tolerance, and doesn't put anyone down… at least not anyone these pastors consider human or worthy of love.

  3. Anonymous

    November 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    It was stated, "“In the actual law, it is clear that any church that receives state funds is not safe.” This merging of your church to the state is your own fault, your own greed to maximize the Power of the almighty Dollar. Did you not forget that it is written, "Render unto Cesar what is due Cesar's and to God what is due God"?

  4. Anonymous

    November 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    This is not intended to down anyone else but YOU as the excuse makers, the twister of truths. The ones who look at gays as mere sex acts without examining the spirit of the individuals. For he who seeks to expose everyone else sins does so in order to hide the vast multitude of his own.

  5. Anonymous

    November 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Separation of Church and state is what protects Church from State interference. With this this separation has also kept the Churches from being taxed. In this is how the new law implicitly protects all religious entities. But now YOU (specifically the ones that have done this) out of greed YOU have bridged YOUR church to the State by receiving funding and now your crying foul? Isn't what is collected on Sunday via tithes enough?

  6. Willie Millard

    November 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    My opinion is that marriage equality will lose in Prince George’s County 60% to 40%. These pastors are just too organized.
    .

  7. Grace

    November 5, 2012 at 10:59 am

    May I just say something or rather ask? Who is in that picture? Are they mostly OLD looking, stodgy looking. They look like the same people who have driven this country into the outhouse. They look miserable..and want the world to be miserable as heck TOO…Reject these hate mongers

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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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