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Md. lawmaker claims marriage votes spurred alcohol abuse

Don Dwyer told Maryland Gazette he felt “betrayed”

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Maryland Marriage Alliance, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news Washington Blade
Maryland Marriage Alliance, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news Washington Blade

Del. Don Dwyer said lawmakers who backed the 2012 same-sex marriage bill contributed to his alcohol abuse. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Maryland lawmaker told a local newspaper last week that legislators who voted for the state’s same-sex marriage bill contributed to his alcohol abuse.

Delegate Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) told the Maryland Gazette in an interview the newspaper posted to its website on Saturday that he felt “betrayed” when Dels. Wade Koch (R-Baltimore County) and Robert Costa (R-Anne Arundel County) and then-Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County) in Feb. 2012 backed for the measure that Gov. Martin O’Malley eventually signed into law. Alston and Koch voted against the bill while it was in committee, while Costa supported it.

“That betrayal really affected me,” Dwyer told the newspaper. “I was physically ill. You pour your heart into an issue like that and it’s devastating.”

Maryland Natural Resource Police last month charged Dwyer, 54, with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, reckless and negligent operation of a vessel, failing to register his boat and rules-of-the-road violation in connection with an Aug. 22 incident on the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County that left him, two other adults and four children injured.

The Anne Arundel County Republican who has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2003 admitted to reporters the day after the crash that he was drinking before his boat collided with Mark “Randy” Harbin’s vessel. Dwyer admitted in a Jan. 8 post to his Facebook page that he is struggling with alcohol.

“In the past year I have faced both personal and professional challenges that were extremely difficult for me,” he wrote. “As a result, and regrettably so, I turned to alcohol to cope. As many of you know, this culminated in a serious boat accident in August when the boat I was operating was struck by another vessel. Though I am unable to discuss the accident itself due to the pending court case, I thought it important that I share with you the steps I have personally taken to address my problem with alcohol.”

Dwyer, who said in his Facebook post he “enjoyed beer or wine socially” before 2012, added he voluntarily entered and completed a treatment program. He said he remains “committed to attending extensive aftercare counseling” and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“It is extremely difficult to lay bare a deeply personal issue in such a public way,” Dwyer said. “However, I believe it is the right thing to do, as I feel answerable to the folks who chose me to represent them in the legislature. I know you have been shocked and disappointed as a result of how I conducted myself. I don’t know if I am to be forgiven, but I certainly hope to regain your confidence.”

Dwyer, who also separated from his wife of 31 years in Nov. 2011, has been one of Maryland’s most outspoken opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

He argued before lawmakers approved the state’s same sex marriage bill that the legalization of nuptials for gays and lesbians in Massachusetts in 2004 indoctrinated the state’s public school students to homosexuality.

Dwyer, who has introduced several measures that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the Maryland constitution, in 2006 tried to remove Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdoch from the bench after she found the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The Anne Arundel County Republican also sought to impeach Attorney General Doug Gansler following his 2010 announcement that the state would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Dwyer did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment about his Jan. 8 Facebook post. He wrote, however, is “committed to renewing my focus to defending personal liberty, property rights and Second Amendment rights.”

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Fausto Fernandez

    January 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

    How can this guy sink so low that he’s blaming same-sex marriage for his drinking? How can anyone vote for him after he utters such a horribly sleazy statement?

  2. Marc Giles

    January 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Ah yes – the party of personal responsibility strikes again.

  3. Moses LawFlav

    January 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    This is pathetic. So what he is saying is: I have no ability to exercise reason and emotional detachment, and will turn to alcoholism and reckless behavior when I don't get my way when it comes to issues I'm opposed to. If he can't control his emotions and will go off the rails over a little stress, he has zero place in public office.

  4. Cameron Robert

    January 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Just more proof that bigots need to stop being bigots. Their hate takes a heavy toll on themselves.

    • Coxhere

      January 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

      If this alcoholic would participate in alcoholism treatment, one of the first things he’d learn is that he drinks alcohol uncontrollably because he is an alcoholic. It’s as simple as that. In other words, he has to take responsibility for his uncontrolled drinking and stop blaming other people, places, and things. Otherwise, he’s not going to ever be successful in an alcoholism, recovery program. His constituents need to confront him about this.

  5. Kynthia Alice Rosgeal

    January 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    All these terrible things same sex marriage causes. Apparently, it causes drunken buttholes to act like drunken buttholes.

  6. Michaelangelo James Hayes

    January 15, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I think this guy actually believes this. That is the sad thing.

  7. David Watson

    January 15, 2013 at 2:10 am

    closet case!

  8. Cate Donoghue

    January 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Poor, poor little bigot. Not only did his wife leave him but he broke his boat on other people's bodies. evil tolerant people are EVIL!

  9. Bill Mears

    January 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    When all else fails…..Blame the gays!

  10. Susan Cohen

    January 17, 2013 at 1:36 am

    IOW, "I'm a bigot AND a drunk, but I totally deserve to left both in office & in denial of my own mental & moral problems."

  11. Shayla

    March 11, 2013 at 5:29 am

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McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy

Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.

When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”

This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.  

HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)

Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.

“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.

Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”

But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.

“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”

McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.

Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.

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Black gay man hopes to ‘shatter lavender ceiling’ in Annapolis

Keanuú Smith-Brown is running to unseat Ward 3 incumbent

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Keanuú Smith-Brown (Photo by David Hartcorn)

Keanuú Smith-Brown, who is affectionately called KSB by his friends, is running to unseat incumbent Annapolis Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-Ward 3) and become the first out LGBTQ elected official in the city.

“Keanuú is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling in Annapolis, becoming the first out LGBTQ person ever elected in the city,” Victory Fund Vice President of Communications Elliot Imse told the Washington Blade.

Smith-Brown, a 26-year-old substitute teacher, announced in February that he was challenging Pindell Charles, who has represented his ward since 2013. They will face off in a Democratic primary on Sept. 21, then the winner advances to the general election on Nov. 2.

The Annapolis native is the eldest of six siblings, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate who describes himself as a proud Black gay man. His opponent, also a Democrat, stated on an Annapolis Pride survey that she supports the LGBTQ community, just “not overtly.”

“But his candidacy is about more than just making history,” Imse said. “When in office, Keanuú will ensure the interests of the LGBTQ community are considered in every policy discussion and every piece of legislation that comes before the council.”

Smith-Brown told the Blade he is running to represent “those who have been left out,” emphasizing that “there is an urgent need for change in our ward.”

The Annapolis native first came out as gay while still a senior in high school, the same year Pindell Charles was first elected as his Ward 3 representative.

“I grew up surrounded by drug addiction and witnessed domestic violence both in my family and in my community,” he told the Blade, sharing he was raised by a single mom while his father was incarcerated during most of his life.

He still lives in the home in which he grew up, and within five minutes of his partner’s house “if you’re driving fast.”

After graduating from the University of Baltimore in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy, Smith-Brown began working with legislators and advocating for LGBTQ bills in Maryland.

As president of the District 30 Democratic Club, Smith-Brown advocated for House Bill 1147 and its companion Senate Bill 401, which were both similar to neighboring D.C.’s requirement for single-occupancy bathrooms to be marked gender-neutral.

Both bills died in committee during the General Assembly’s pandemic-shortened session in 2020, but Smith-Brown’s advocacy continued.

He marched during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and he continued to be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and visibility as a member of Annapolis Pride.

“I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies and events, even hosting a campaign ‘Love with Pride and Unity’ Drag Brunch,” Smith-Brown wrote in response to Annapolis Pride’s first LGBTQ-issues survey. “I helped organize for Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions.”

Pindell Charles, by contrast, in her survey response stated she did not consider her advocacy for the LGBTQ community to be “overt.”

“My support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer,” she wrote. “One-on-one, rather than as a group, or public displays.”

FreeState Justice, Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization supports public advocacy.

“It’s extremely important for LGBTQ community members to participate in civic engagement — especially as elected officials,” Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade in an email.

FreeState Justice has encouraged LGBTQ Marylanders to speak out at public hearings in support of legislation such as the state’s “panic defense” ban, waiving the publication of name change petitions and the establishment of a state commission on LGBTQ affairs. All of these measures passed during the 2021 legislative session.

“There is such immense power for our community that can be built at the grassroots level. From leading neighborhood associations to sitting on city councils, or representing the community in the General Assembly,” said Smith-Brown. “As the world changes, so do the ways in which issues disproportionately or uniquely impact the LGBTQ community, especially for our youth, elders, trans and Black siblings.”

Pindell Charles, who did not respond to the Blade’s requests for comment prior to publication, is a retired Baltimore City prosecutor and chairs the Annapolis City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee.

During her time in public service, her advocacy included a variety of “groups and communities considered to be ‘underrepresented,’” according to her Annapolis Pride survey response.

Smith-Brown said Ward 3 deserves better.

“She is saying this is in a position of power, that she’s not willing to get out of her comfort zone,” he told the Blade. “You may not be okay with seeing two men or two women together, but when you don’t allow yourself in your position to be inclusive of all people you are now failing in your position.”

“If someone said that about the Black community, it would not be taken in the same way,” he added. “Admit that you don’t need to be here in this way. We can all do our best to do better.”

The Capital Gazette in February reported Pindell Charles intends to run for a third term and welcomes Smith-Brown’s challenge.

“We need to win this,” Smith-Brown said, encouraging LGBTQ and all voters to get out and vote. “My being at that seat at the table means that we are all in that seat. What is it they say? If I eat, we eat. That is the impact on our future, and I’m in it to win it.”

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LGBTQ Democrats briefed on D.C. ranked choice voting bill

Council may already have enough votes to pass it

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Stein Club, gay news, Washington Blade
Jatarius Frazier of the Capital Stonewall Democrats was among officials briefed on the ranked choice voting bill. (Photo courtesy D.C. Government)

Members of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, received a briefing Monday night from the chief of staff for D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) on a bill she introduced in July calling for a “ranked choice” voting system for D.C. elections.

The bill, called the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021, calls for D.C. to join about 50 other jurisdictions across the country, including New York City and San Francisco, in giving voters the option of ranking up to five candidates for a particular office in the order of their preference.

Under the ranked choice voting system, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the “first choice” votes, the candidate is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives greater than 50 percent of the first-choice votes in a race where there are three or more candidates, the system provides an instant runoff.

“The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate will have their votes count for their next choice,” according to a statement released by Henderson at the time she introduced the legislation. “This process continues in rounds until there’s a majority winner,” the statement says.

T.J. Maloney, Henderson’s chief of staff, told Capital Stonewall Democrats members during a virtual Zoom meeting that studies of the ranked choice voting system in jurisdictions where it has been adopted show that overall voter turnout has increased and, following a voter education process, voters appear to adjust and support the system.

Six other D.C. Council members joined Henderson in co-introducing the VOICE ranked choice voting bill, indicating it may already have a seven-vote majority in its favor on the 13-member Council. However, Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) does not support the current version of the bill, according to spokesperson Lindsay Walton.

Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee where the bill was sent and one of the bill’s co-introducers, has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for on Nov. 18. The hearing, which will be virtual, will be broadcast live on the Council’s website.

Last week, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which is the governing body of the D.C. Democratic Party and of which the Capital Stonewall Democrats is an affiliated member, voted to oppose the VOICE Act legislation. Some of its members said they believe a ranked choice voting system would be beneficial to the city’s smaller political party candidates, including Republicans and Statehood Green Party candidates, and would place Democratic Party candidates at a disadvantage.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in the 2020 D.C. Democratic primary, said he favors a simple runoff election system over a ranked choice voting system in cases where multiple candidates run, and none receive at least 50 percent of the vote.

Among the ranked choice bill’s supporters is gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. Naughton told the Washington Blade he is not an expert on the ranked choice voting system but his initial research into the system leads him to believe the system has the potential for providing a greater electoral voice for minority communities, including possibly the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ candidates who run for public office.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier said the group was in the process of learning more about the ranked file voting system. No one raised the issue of the group taking a position on the legislation at Monday night’s meeting.

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