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Md. couples obtaining marriage licenses with little difficulty

Confusion remains around tax, other issues as Jan. 1 nears



Dale Knight, Jeff Arney, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade
Dale Knight, Jeff Arney, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dale Knight and Jeff Arney of Ellicott City were the first gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Howard County. (Photo courtesy of Dale Knight)

With less than three weeks until Maryland’s same-sex marriage law takes effect, gay and lesbian couples continue to apply for marriage licenses across the state.

Eighteen of Maryland’s 23 circuit courts began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses on Dec. 6; the same day Gov. Martin O’Malley officially certified the Nov. 6 election results that included the passage of the referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law by a 52-48 percent margin. Attorney General Doug Gansler wrote in a Nov. 29 opinion that gays and lesbians could begin to marry in the state on Jan. 1.

The Cecil County Circuit Court began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, while gays and lesbians will be able to apply for them in Prince George’s County Circuit Court starting on Dec. 18. Clerks in Caroline, Queen Anne’s and St. Mary’s Counties will not begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until Jan. 2. (Question 6 lost in all five of the aforementioned jurisdictions.)

Heather Ware and her partner of seven years are the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Alleghany County. She told the Washington Blade the staff at the clerk’s office in Cumberland “were so friendly.”

“They just walked us through the whole thing,” Ware said. “It was very simple. You could tell they were excited about it too, so that was a good feeling.”

Ellicott City residents Dale Knight and Jeff Arney, who will celebrate their 15th anniversary in June, on Friday became the first gay couple in Howard County to receive a marriage license. Knight told the Blade the three women who were working in the clerk’s office where they submitted their application were “really friendly” and “very happy to have us there.”

He said they took his and Arney’s picture and clapped for them.

“While we were there (in the clerk’s office) it was us, another lesbian couple and a straight couple,” Knight said. “I was like, ‘Oh look, a little melting pot here.’ It was kind of cute.”

Takoma Park lawyer Sue Silber, who is also an Equality Maryland board member, told the Blade on Wednesday she has not received any reports of clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“All in all, generally the couples I’ve been talking too it’s been smooth, it’s been celebratory,” Mark Scurti, a partner at Pessin Katz Law in Towson, added. “Everybody’s been friendly. It’s been an air of celebration — very positive.”

Even though gays and lesbians across Maryland have had little difficulty obtaining marriage licenses in jurisdictions where clerks have begun issuing them, extending state tax, spousal and other benefits to same-sex partners once the law takes effect could prove more difficult.

Scurti said some title companies have refused to issue title insurance policies to same-sex couples — he provided them copies of the state Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision in May that recognized nuptials for gays and lesbians legally performed in D.C. and other jurisdictions.

Washington County in July began offering spousal benefits to employees who legally married their same-sex partner after Lambda Legal filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Rights on behalf of a county librarian whose application for spousal benefits had been denied. Baltimore County in late 2010 extended same-sex spousal benefits to county employees after the LGBT legal advocacy group filed grievances on behalf of two married lesbian police officers whose applications had been denied.

The Anne Arundel County Public Schools in July 2011 extended these benefits to gay and lesbian employees who legally married outside of Maryland.

Scurti said a Baltimore City solicitor had to become involved in a case where a clerk refused to recognize same-sex marriage for purposes of recording a couple’s deed. Maryland income and estate tax rules still define marriage as written under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, so same-sex couples will still have to file separate 2012 state tax returns.

“There are issues to still work out around that stuff,” Silber said, noting Equality Maryland and other groups continue to address them. “I don’t know yet whether all of this will be smooth when people start marrying, but we’re working on it. DOMA makes it very complicated.”

In spite of these potential hurdles, a number of couples continue to move forward with their plans to tie the knot on Jan. 1.

Ware, her partner and at least three other same-sex couples are discussing the possibility of marrying in Cumberland just after midnight on New Year’s Day.

“We fought so hard for it and the couples that will be standing there with us understand how hard it’s been, how much we’ve wanted it,” she said. “It’s definitely been a fight that I think should be celebrated together.”

A close friend who has become a wedding officient plans to marry Knight and Arney at her Howard County home at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1. The couple plans to have a larger wedding later in the year, but Knight said he and his partner want to secure the legal protections the new law will afford to same-sex couples.

“God forbid something happened to one of us, we at least know that we have some protection in the eyes of the state that we’re married,” he said. “Besides, we’ve waited long enough. Some people are waiting or whatever and that’s fine. But for us, we feel like we’ve waited long enough and we just kind of want that as soon as we can get it.”

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District of Columbia

Man charged with assaulting lesbian activist pleads guilty, gets 14 months in jail

Aiyi’nah Ford hit in head with barstool at Congress Heights restaurant in August



Lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford was attacked in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 17 sentenced a 46-year-old D.C. man to 14 months in jail after he pleaded guilty in September to an assault charge for an incident in which he attacked lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford at a restaurant on Aug. 3

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police on Aug. 12 states that Donnell Anthony Peterson allegedly knocked Ford to the floor at the Player’s Lounge restaurant and bar in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood before hitting her in the head twice with the metal legs of a barstool.

Ford told the Washington Blade that Peterson, who was a regular customer at Player’s Lounge as was she, assaulted her while repeatedly calling her a “dyke bitch” after the two got into a verbal argument over, among other things, the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said she told Peterson and others who were having a discussion that she considers the program to be ineffective and a “joke.”

According to court records, witnesses reported seeing Ford bleeding profusely from the head before an ambulance took her to George Washington University Hospital, where she received multiple stitches to treat a serious head wound.

Court records show that D.C. police, who were called to the scene at the time of the assault, initially charged Peterson with Assault With a Dangerous Weapon. The records show that Peterson through his attorney agreed in September to accept a plea bargain offer by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

The offer called for lowering the charge to Assault With Significant Bodily Injury in exchange for pleading guilty with a promise by prosecutors to seek a sentence of no more than 14 month in jail.

The court records show that Superior Court Judge James A. Cromwell sentenced Peterson to 32 months of incarceration but suspended 18 months, requiring that he serve 14 months after which he would be released on probation. Court records show the probation was to last 18 months. Under court rules, if someone violates the terms of their probation, which almost always prohibits them from breaking the law or threatening a person they were charged with assaulting, the released person is ordered back to jail to serve the remaining time that had been suspended.

At the time Peterson was arrested in August a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, in response to a question from the Blade, declined to disclose why prosecutors chose not to classify Peterson’s assault against Ford as a hate crime based on her sexual orientation.

Ford told the Blade this week that the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alec Levi, was supportive of her throughout the case and told her a hate crime designation sometimes makes it more difficult to obtain a conviction if a case goes to trial. Ford said Levi told her prosecutors wanted to do all they could to bring Peterson to justice for his attack against her.

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District of Columbia

Longtime activist Lane Hudson arrested on drug charges

Homeland Security launched probe leading to August 2021 raid



Lane Hudson was arrested last year on drug charges. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia show that law enforcement officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department arrested D.C. gay activist Thomas Lane Hudson on Aug. 11, 2021, on charges of possession with the intent to distribute illegal drugs.

An affidavit filed in court says the arrest took place at Hudson’s Logan Circle area apartment after officers forcibly entered the apartment when Hudson did not respond to their knocking on the door announcing their presence with a search warrant.

The affidavit says the officers discovered and seized illegal narcotics that were field tested and weighed and which included “1,096.4 grams of a mixture and substance containing Methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance; 29.5 grams of a mixture and substance containing Heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance; and 322.974 fluid ounces of a mixture and substance containing Gamma Butyrolactone (‘GBL’), a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Court records show that Hudson was held without bond until at least Aug. 25, 2021, when U.S. District Court Judge Robin M. Meriweather approved a motion filed by prosecutors to seal the case from the public record on grounds that it “contains sensitive information regarding the underlying ongoing criminal investigation.”

The Aug. 25 entry that up until then was part of the public court record announcing the decision to seal the case did not disclose any information about an underlying or ongoing investigation. It also did not disclose why federal Homeland Security investigators became involved in a drug case ordinarily handled by D.C. police.

Hudson and his attorney, who is identified in the court records as Brian Keith McDaniel, did not respond to repeated requests by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and to disclose whether they dispute the accuracy of the charges filed against Hudson.

The arrest affidavit, which was filed before the case was sealed, remains a part of the public record. It says that in addition to the allegation that illegal drugs were seized from Hudson’s apartment, the officers conducting the search found “assorted items related to distribution of controlled substances.”

Among the items found, it says, were digital scales, plastic zip bags, vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags, a currency counting machine, and “approximately $48,000 in United States currency.” 

Although the public court records do not show whether Hudson was released while awaiting trial or was still being held, sources who know Hudson pointed out that he resumed posting messages on social media in December of 2021 after a period when no postings from him could be found. This suggests he has been released while the case remains pending.

Hudson’s arrest came less than a year before the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance released its 2022 D.C. LGBTQ Election Guide called Leave No One Behind, which calls for the decriminalization of possession of currently illegal drugs for personal use.

Although the GLAA document doesn’t call for decriminalizing the selling of illegal drugs, it says “evidence demonstrates criminalization has done little to curb the prevalence of drugs in our communities and is not an effective way of getting people into treatment because it stigmatizes drug users.”

Hudson is well known in the D.C. area and among LGBTQ advocates locally and nationally. He was twice elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention; served on Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee; and once worked for the Human Rights Campaign. 

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District of Columbia

Hundreds attend Dupont Circle vigil for Colorado shooting victims

Clergy members join activists in denouncing ant-LGBTQ violence



Hundreds showed up Monday night to remember Club Q victims. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several hundred people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle Monday night to honor the five who died and at least 25 wounded in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., this past Saturday night.

Among those who participated in the vigil were eight ministers and two elders from local LGBTQ supportive churches.

The event took place shortly after Colorado authorities released the names of the five patrons of the Club Q nightclub who police said were shot to death by lone gunman suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who was subdued by other patrons before police arrived on the scene and placed him under arrest.

“We’re going to take the time to heal, to process, to honor those victims, members of our own community,” said Larry Miller, news anchor for D.C.’s WUSA 9 TV, who served as moderator at the vigil.

“It will be tough,” Miller said in opening the event. “But we’ll do it together. If you need to cry this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “If you need to pray, you’ll have that opportunity as well.”  

The vigil was organized jointly by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs; Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events; the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events; the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community; and the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.

“Today we are standing in solidarity with our queer family in Colorado Springs in the aftermath of a tragic and deadly shooting at Club Q,” Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, told the gathering.

“However, gun violence and anti-LGBTQ hate will not stomp out our life,” Bowles said. “And even though we are mourning today and tomorrow and through the holidays where seats around the dinner table will be empty due to gun violence and anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, our love and our strength as a community will prevail.”

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events, told those attending the Dupont Circle vigil he worries that a shooting incident like the one in Colorado Springs could happen anywhere, including in D.C.

“I’m tired of having to say the names of those we’ve lost for no reason,” he said. “We have legislators pushing all these anti-LGBTQ bills,” Hutton said. “We can’t sit by silently and let this continue.” 

Among the clergy members who spoke was Rev. Adalphie Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.

“I come here this evening with a heavy heart,” she said. “A heavy heart because we are still living in a world where folks need to understand what it means to love, what it means to allow people to be free, what it means to allow people to live their authentic self.”

Others who spoke included Mike Silverstein, a member of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance; Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors and a member of the Human Rights Campaign board; Alexis Elizabeth Rodriguez, director of D.C.’s Latinx Pride organization; and D.C. artist and poet Reggie Rich.

Other clergy members who participated in the vigil included Rev. Aaron Wade, founder and Pastor Emeritus of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.; Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, Senior Minister at First Congressional United church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs Jr., Senior Pastor of Little River United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Sidney Fowler of United Church of Christ; and Rev. Kenneth King, Pastor serving New Hope Baptist Church and Plymouth Congressional United Church of Christ.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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