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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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Arts & Entertainment

Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight dazzle at AIDS Healthcare Foundation World AIDS Day Concert at Kennedy Center

Renowned vocalists delivered show-stopping performances

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Patti LaBelle performs onstage during World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted its 2022 World AIDS Day Concert on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the concert hall of The Kennedy Center in D.C. Renowned multi-Grammy Award-winning vocalists Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight delivered show-stopping performances to the packed crowd, which included supporters, dignitaries such as: Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and New Orleans Mayor, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and more, in a night of hope and celebration.

The legendary Gladys Knight performs at the Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington. (Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider, currently operating in 45 countries. The concert is held every year to commemorate World AIDS Day, observed internationally each year on Dec. 1. This year also marked the global organization’s 35th anniversary. 

At the event, longtime humanitarian and AIDS advocate, Princess Diana was honored, posthumously, with AHF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Under its “Keep the Promise!” banner, AHF also acknowledged progress made in the global fight against HIV and AIDS and continues to raise awareness about “The Other Pandemic” as a reminder of the significant work still to be done on HIV/AIDS, as well as remembering the lives that have been lost over the years.  

Legendary entertainers Patti LaBelle (L) Gladys Knight (C) and AHF President Michael Weinstein, together at The Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington. (Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Michael Weinstein, President of AHF, said, “As millions remain affected by HIV/AIDS around the globe, World AIDS Day annually provides an opportunity to honor those we’ve lost and those living with HIV/AIDS today, as well as reminding leaders and the community of the work that still remains to address this epidemic. From providing compassionate AIDS hospice care in those darkest early days to growing to become the largest global AIDS organization today, now providing lifesaving care and treatment to more than 1.7 million people around the globe, we also celebrate the tireless work of all those who help make today’s AHF possible: our staff, Board, affiliate organizations and affinity groups, friends, family and elected officials and community partners across the globe, but most of all, our clients and patients—with our annual 2022 World AIDS Day event. It was a momentous night to host our World AIDS Day concert at The Kennedy Center for the first time, and welcome back the legendary Patti LaBelle, and have another great American icon, Gladys Knight join us, while also being able to honor the legacy and humanitarian work of the late Princess Diana.”

President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein and Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Harold Phillips attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee and Patti LaBelle attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Derek J. attends World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
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District of Columbia

Matthew Shepard portrait dedicated at National Cathedral

Gay Wyoming student killed in 1998 hate crime honored in daylong ceremony

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., was to be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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District of Columbia

Three more LGBTQ ANC candidates declared winners

At least 38 LGBTQ hopefuls elected; outcome for two more uncertain

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There will be a special election to fill the seat of Kent Boese, who withdrew his candidacy but received the most votes.

The number of known LGBTQ candidates who won election to Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats rose from 35 to 38 as the D.C. Board of Elections this week released its final, certified vote count for the Nov. 8 D.C. election.

The 38 winners were among 44 known LGBTQ candidates who ran for ANC seats this year. One of the candidates who emerged as a winner, incumbent James Tandaric of ANC 3F05 in the city’s Van Ness neighborhood, was trailing opponent Andrew Koval by just eight votes when the early vote count was released in the days following the election.

The final vote count that emerged this week shows Tandaric beat Koval by a vote of 258 to 250.

When the early vote count was released in the week after the election, the outcome of four LGBTQ ANC write-in candidates along with all write-in candidates could not be determined until the Board of Elections received a required affidavit of candidacy from the write-in candidates, which was due by Nov. 15.

When the final write-in candidate results were released earlier this week along with the names of the write-in candidates, two of the four LGBTQ write-in candidates emerged as winners, both from the Logan Circle ANC. The two are Christopher Dyer of ANC 2F05 and Matt Fouracre of ANC 2F06.

Another one of the LGBTQ write-in candidates, Charles Panfil of ANC 6E02 in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood, finished in a tie with another write-in candidate. A spokesperson for the Board of Elections said tie votes in ANC elections are resolved by the drawing of lots. The spokesperson, Nicholas Jacobs, said he couldn’t immediately say when a drawing of the lot would take place.

The race for the fourth LGBTQ write-in candidate, Bradley Gallagher of ANC 1E01 in the city’s Park View neighborhood, could not be determined and a special election for that seat will have to be held, according to the Board of Election. The reason, the elections board said, is longtime gay ANC member Kent Boese, who withdrew his candidacy after it was too late to remove his name from the ballot, received the most votes. “As such, there is no winner for this contest” under the city’s election law, the Board of Elections said.

Elections board spokesperson Jacobs said a special election for that ANC seat will be called, with Gallagher and others who obtain the required number of ballot petition signatures will be allowed to run in the special election.

Boese withdrew his candidacy after he was nominated and subsequently approved by the D.C. Council to become director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

If Gallagher were to win in the special election and should Panfil win the drawing of the lot following the tie vote in his race, the total number of known LGBTQ candidates elected to ANC seats would rise to 40, a record number compared to past ANC elections.

There were 33 known LGBTQ ANC candidates who won election in 2020, which was the first year the Washington Blade kept track of the known LGBTQ ANC candidates who ran and won.

A list of the 35 winning LGBTQ ANC candidates known during the week following the Nov. 8 election can be seen here.

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