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Mizeur formally introduces running mate

Delman Coates backed Maryland’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum



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Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday announced her running mate, Rev. Delman Coates (left), at a campaign event in Silver Spring, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday formally announced a prominent Prince George’s County pastor who backed the state’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum as her running mate.

The Montgomery County Democrat who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the Maryland House of Delegates introduced Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton during a campaign event at American Legion Post 41 in Silver Spring.

“I am not just picking a running mate for an election season,” Mizeur said. “I’m choosing a partner who’s best situated to help me deliver on a shared vision for the future of Maryland.”

Coates’ wife Yolanda and their four children and Mizeur’s wife, Deborah Mizeur, joined the ticket on stage as the Montgomery County Democrat’s running mate spoke to supporters.

“My life’s work has been on the front lines of our biggest community issues,” Coates said, referring to his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and efforts to curb home foreclosures and to help people reintegrate into society once they are no longer incarcerated. “I have stood up for justice. And I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Coates, whose congregation has more than 8,000 members, in February 2012 testified in support of a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to legally marry in the state.

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure a few weeks later, but same-sex marriage opponents collected enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the law.

Coates appeared in a television ad in support of Question 6. The Prince George’s County pastor also joined Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent black clergy who urged Marylanders to vote for the law during a September 2012 press conference at the National Press Club in D.C.

Question 6 passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.

Coates noted to the Washington Blade after the campaign event the ticket includes a Baptist minister and a lesbian at a time when the National Organization for Marriage said it wants “to exploit this wedge or divide between these two communities.” He stressed their bid is primarily about substance.

“I accepted Heather’s invitation because I think it’s important to return Annapolis to the people,” Coates said. “It really for me is about governing from the bottom up where the concerns, interests of the people are prioritized over the interests of special interests.”

Mizeur will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley.

Gansler last month tapped state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) as his running mate. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in June joined Brown’s campaign after he abandoned his own gubernatorial bid.

Mizeur told the Blade she began talking with Coates over the summer about potentially joining her campaign.

She said she feels her running mate’s experience as a pastor and efforts in support of same-sex marriage, protecting voting rights and other issues will serve him well as lieutenant governor.

“He’s no stranger to our political process,” Mizeur told the Blade. “He has used his relationship to the community to not just be of service on Sundays, but to roll up his sleeves and be engaged in the community making a difference day in and day out. And that translates incredibly well to the work that we have before us in Annapolis.”

Gansler entered the race in September with a significant financial advantage over his Democratic opponents.

A poll that Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies released on Oct. 17 found Brown ahead of Gansler among likely Maryland voters by a 41-21 percent margin. Slightly more than five percent of respondents said they would vote for Mizeur in the Democratic primary.

In spite of these hurdles, Mizeur’s supporters told the Blade on Wednesday they support her decision to tap Coates has her running mate.

“It’s an excellent choice,” Suchitra Balachandran of College Park said. “Between the two of them we will be addressing topics and discussing issues that otherwise will not happen in a campaign.”

Kevin Walling, a former Equality Maryland staffer who in July declared his candidacy to represent portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates, described the ticket as “a dream team.” He said Mizeur’s decision to choose Coates as her running mate came as a surprise, but stressed supporters will respond to him well.

“Once folks meet Delman and see him up close and personal and they get to know him, I think he’s going to win them over,” Walling told the Blade.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing



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(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’



A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126



The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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