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Supporters of Md. marriage law remain hopeful going into Election Day

Question 6 backers concede opposition has ‘been tough’

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Richard Madaleno, election 2012, marriage equality, Question 6, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade
Deb Ferranz, election 2012, marriage equality, Question 6, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Silver Spring resident Deb Ferranz calls voters for Question 6 at Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s office in Silver Spring on Saturday (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law said over the weekend they remain optimistic voters on Election Day will support Question 6.

“I want Maryland to make history,” said Silver Spring resident Laurette Cucuzzo as she called voters from Marylanders for Maryland Equality’s office in Silver Spring on Saturday afternoon. “I’m very excited about this. My sister’s gay and I want to support everyone’s right to equality. I think it’s really important.”

Silver Spring resident Deb Ferrenz also spoke to the Washington Blade as she called voters. She has been a Marylanders for Marriage Equality volunteer for several months, but she said the issue is important to her because her lesbian daughter married in Massachusetts.

“We’re saying kind of are you aware that there is getting a change to vote for a law that lets gay and lesbian couples get legally married in our state,” Ferrenz said. “And that we think it’s a matter of fairness and we hope they agree and they are planning to vote for Question 6.”

Maegan Marcano of Northeast Washington traveled to Silver Spring to “support Maryland.” She noted to the Blade as she sat with Cucuzzo and Mai-Kim Norman of D.C. same-sex couples began to legally marry in the nation’s capital in 2010 after D.C. Council passed a bill allowing nuptials for gays and lesbians.

“We were able to do that in the District of Columbia,” said Marcano, noting the passage of the city’s same-sex marriage bill did not happen without debate and even controversy. “It’s a little heart-wrenching that people who are not involved in our lives in the gay and lesbian community have to vote on this issue so that’s why I’m here to really kind of try to get that extra push.”

A Goucher College poll released 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 Washington Post survey published Oct. 18 noted 52 percent of Maryland voters support Question 6, compared to 42 percent who said they oppose it.

A third poll the Baltimore Sun conducted between Oct. 20-23 noted only 46 percent of respondents would vote for the law Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March.

The governor, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chair Emeritus Julian Bond and other Question 6 supporters maintain the same-sex marriage law protects religious freedom in spite of opponents who continue to claim it does not.

“It is not a protection for churches,” said state Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Frederick County) during an anti-Question 6 rally at Baker Park in Frederick on Nov. 4. She cited Vermont innkeepers who claim a lesbian couple from New York sued them after they refused to host their wedding reception. Afzali also highlighted the suburban Boston man who maintains police arrested him in 2005 because he demanded his son’s teachers not expose him to discussions about homosexuality. “I’m not making this up. You can Google the stories. It’s true. So when they tell you that you’re protected, you are not protected.”

Question 6, Maryland, gay marriage, anti-gay, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

A van with anti-gay marriage signs and banners parked near an anti-Question 6 event at a Frederick park on Nov. 4. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) was among those who also spoke during the Frederick gathering that drew a few dozen people. Pastor Luke Robinson of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Frederick noted Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

“We believe marriage is and should remain defined as a union of one man and one woman,” said Peter Sprigg of Family Research Council, during the same event. “The second message is, if I can paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not parish in the state of Maryland.”

Sprigg noted the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2007 upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriages based on what the majority concluded was the state’s “legitimate interests in fostering procreation” and “encouraging the traditional family structure in which children are born are reasonably related to defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” He also said LGBT advocates failed to spur Annapolis lawmakers to pass a same-sex marriage bill until earlier this year.

“Finally in 2012 they succeeded in pushing through this redefinition of our most fundamental social institution but we the people did not surrender,” Sprigg said. “As you heard we got at least three times the signatures needed to put this issue on the ballot. So the House of Delegates has had their say. The Senate has had their say. The governor has had their say, but on Tuesday we the people have our say.”

He further urged Maryland voters to use what he described as “simple common sense” when they go into the voting booth.

“On this issue I feel like people sometimes ignore the obvious: it takes one man and one woman to make a baby,” Sprigg said. “Marriage exists to encourage the man and woman to raise the child produced by their union. It is no disrespect to your friends or neighbors or relatives who may self-identify as gay or lesbian to say that; any more than it’s disrespectful to hard-working single parents or those living with relatives they’re not permitted to marry or those who choose not to marry at all. But the definition of marriage is not about finding the least common denominator. It’s about upholding the highest ideal. Society needs children. Children do best when they have a mom and a dad.”

Pastor Matt Braddock of Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring disagreed with those who continue to claim Question 6 does not ensure religious freedom. More than 30 people took part in a 24-hour vigil in support of the same-sex marriage law on Nov. 2-3.

“People in this congregation who’ve been doing door-to-door canvassing I think are getting very positive messages from the households they are visiting, but the opposition has been tough,” Braddock told the Blade inside the sanctuary when asked how he feels going into Election Day. “They’ve been miscommunicating the facts and scaring people intentionally. I’ve been praying for 24 hours that people don’t believe lies and really respond generously.”

Like Braddock, gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno said he remains “guardedly optimistic” about Question 6 ahead of Tuesday.

“I feel really good about our chances,” he told the Blade at Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s Silver Spring office on Saturday afternoon. “I feel like we’ve really done almost everything we can do to put ourselves in the position to win. I’m heartened by the fact that poll after poll continues to show us ahead by substantial leads.”

Richard Madaleno, election 2012, marriage equality, Question 6, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) phone banks for Question 6 at Marylanders for Marriage Equality’s Silver Spring office on Saturday (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. RCS

    November 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    There is one last thing to do. If you live in Maryland, get out and vote FOR on Question 6 tomorrow, and tell everyone you know to do the same.

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Gay man attacked, beaten by neighbors in Northeast D.C.

Police list incident as hate crime but courthouse ‘backlog’ could delay arrests

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors and fears for his life. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

A woman, her daughter, and a man believed to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched a gay man in the face while the mother called him a “Jewish faggot” and other anti-gay slurs during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of an apartment building where the victim and the two women live, according to the victim and a D.C. police incident report.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, told the Washington Blade the incident began after the mother began shouting anti-gay slurs at him as he walked past her and his roommate outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13. 

Zephir identifies the mother as Aurlora Y. Ellis in court papers seeking a restraining order against her that he filed in D.C. Superior Court. He said she had acted in a hostile way toward him before the assault incident.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” Zephir told the Blade in an email.

He said that minutes before the Oct. 13 attack, Ellis yelled the words “Jewish faggot” when he walked past her as she was talking to his roommate, Steven Johnson. Zephir said it is well known among his neighbors at the apartment complex that he is of the Jewish faith.

“I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir wrote in his email to the Blade. 

“I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he wrote. “Mr. Johnson tried to break us up when her daughter Latera Cox and [Cox’s] father assaulted me,” according to Zephir’s account of the incident. “Ms. Ellis yelled, ‘Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.”

At that point, Ellis, her daughter Latera Cox, and the man Zephir believes to be Cox’s father fled the scene, Zephir told the Blade.

The D.C. police incident report, which lists the assault as a suspected hate crime, says, “All three suspects then fled east bound” on the 4800 block of Fort Totten Dr., N.E.

Zephir said he immediately called police, who arrived on the scene and took a report on the incident. The report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as a simple assault, which is a misdemeanor under D.C. law.

But Zephir said a detective working on the case told him this week that police were looking into speeding up the process of obtaining warrants for the arrest of the three attackers based, in part, on the injuries Zephir suffered from the attack. He provided the Blade with a medical report issued by the Washington Hospital Center, where his roommate took him to the emergency room the day following the attack, in response to severe pain he was experiencing to his face and head.

The report from the hospital, which treated and released him on Oct. 14, says he was diagnosed as having a fractured nose; a fracture of the “interior orbital wall,” which is the bone surrounding one of his eyes; subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleeding of his left eye; and “laceration of oral cavity” which means an injury inside his mouth caused by trauma from the assault.

Zephir told the Blade that the same detective told him last week that due to a “backlog” in cases at the D.C. Superior Court, it could take between one and two months for police and prosecutors to obtain warrants for the arrests of the two women and the man who assaulted him.

A police spokesperson told the Blade the case remains under active investigation. A spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which acts as the prosecutor for adult criminal cases in D.C., said he would look into whether the office could publicly comment on the status of efforts to obtain arrest warrants for the three attackers.

Zephir said rumors had surfaced prior to the assault incident that Ellis may have access to a gun. Based on what he feared was a threat by Ellis when she told him during the attack that “this isn’t over yet,” he said he persuaded his roommate to drive him to the courthouse on the same day as the attack to apply for a court restraining order to prevent Ellis from harming him again.

Court records show he also filed a civil complaint against Ellis, Ellis’s daughter, and Ellis’s roommate, Linda Miller, who Zephir says in the complaint acted as an “enabler” for Ellis’ hostility toward him.

The complaint, which is a civil lawsuit that Zephir wrote by hand and filed by himself without hiring a lawyer, calls for $18,000 in damages.  

“I have nightmares,” Zephir told the Blade. “I can’t believe it happened. I keep reliving the experience over and over and over in my head,” he said. “And I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own apartment. I don’t feel safe because I, honest to God, feel like she is going to bodily harm me and I might be, God forbid, murdered.”

Ellis, Cox, and Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Biden endorses Roem for re-election

Former journalist is first out trans person in any state legislature

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. President Biden has endorsed her for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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