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Pro-Question group raises nearly $6 million to defend Md. marriage law

Marylanders for Marriage Equality filed latest campaign finance report on Nov. 27.



Martin O'Malley, Question 6, election 2012, Maryland, gay marriage, same sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Martin O'Malley, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Question 6, Maryland, election 2012, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Governor Martin O’Malley with Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens outside Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore on Nov. 6 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised nearly $6 million to defend the state’s same-sex marriage law, according to campaign finance reports.

The latest report the pro-Question 6 group filed with state election officials on Nov. 27 indicates it raised $776,041.15 between Oct. 22 and Nov. 20 with an additional $78,802.87 in in-kind contributions. This figure comes on top of the $4,504,262.61 it raised between July 27-Oct. 7 and $547,490.19 in in-kind contributions during the same period.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised a total of $5,906,596.82 in cash and in-kind contributions.

HRC, United Therapeutics Corporation, MGM among largest donors

The campaign’s latest report indicates the Human Rights Campaign donated $188,000 and $33,264.47 in in-kind contributions in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 referendum. The Human Rights Campaign Maryland Families PAC contributed $35,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality on Oct. 31 and another $55,000 on Nov. 2.

MGM, which seeks to build a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County after voters approved expanded gambling in the state, contributed $75,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality on Oct. 23. The D.C. biotechnology company United Therapeutics Corporation that transgender woman Martine Rothblatt founded donated $100,000 to the pro-Question 6 group. Baltimore attorney Peter Angelos on Nov. 2 contributed $50,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality on Nov. 2.

The owners of the 9:30 Club in Northwest Washington, which hosted a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser that gay former “American Idol” Adam Lambert headlined in September, donated $25,000 to the campaign. The Democratic State Committee of Maryland on Oct. 22 transferred $10,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

Freedom to Marry, which had initially declined to join the coalition of groups defending Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, gave a $70,000 contribution to Marylanders for Marriage Equality on Oct. 24. Other donors included former O’Malley aide Joseph Bryce, Whitman-Walker Health Executive Director Don Blanchon, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Equality Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in October donated $250,000. Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife Chan announced a $100,000 contribution to Marylanders for Marriage Equality during an Oct. 2 fundraiser at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s Logan Circle home that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and others attended.

Gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman also co-hosted a star-studded Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser in New York City in September at which O’Malley also spoke.

“We knew that preserving marriage equality at the ballot box was going to take tremendous effort and sacrifice,” Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, told Washington Blade. “The fact that we were able to raise almost $6 million underscores how important this issue was for so many different people and organizations. From wealthy Republicans, to labor unions, to the college student who sent $15 with a note saying ‘I wish it was more, but I hope it helps you,’ we all came together to stand up for fairness and equality for all Maryland families.

HRC spokesperson Kevin Nix agreed.

“The final report — like the previous ones — indicates the outpouring of grassroots support we had throughout the campaign,” he said. “We’re certainly grateful to all those who donated their time and money to this extraordinary win.”

Marylanders on Nov. 6 upheld the state’s same-sex marriage law O’Malley signed in Marcy by a 52-48 percent margin. Voters in Maine and Washington on the same day also approved nuptials for gays and lesbians at the ballot box, while Minnesotans rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Question 6 opponents raise slightly more than $2.4 million

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed Question 6, reported in its latest campaign finance report it raised $697,572.07 between Oct. 22 and Nov. 20. It also noted $53,809.08 in in-kind contributions.

The National Organization for Marriage on Oct. 24 transferred $400,000 to the Maryland Marriage Alliance, while the Knights of Columbus donated $100,000 on Oct. 30. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., on Oct. 26 gave $25,000 to the anti-Question 6 group.

The Roman Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore donated $10,000 on Nov. 20.

Other Maryland Marriage Alliance donors include the Catholic Dioceses of Arlington, Va., and Wheeling-Charleston, W.V., Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown and Bethesda resident Sterling Colton. The anti-Question 6 raised a total of $2,452,881.74 in cash and in-kind contributions from July 27–Nov. 20.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

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 Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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