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Trans rights bill, ‘ex-gay’ therapy ban top Md. legislative agenda

Session begins amid gubernatorial campaign

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

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Efforts to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression and so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors are top priorities for Maryland LGBT rights advocates during the 2014 legislative session that begins on Wednesday.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will introduce the transgender rights bill in the state Senate. State Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) plans to bring forth the measure in the House of Delegates, even though the chamber passed a trans rights bill in 2011.

“We didn’t want to lose the opportunity to work with our House members,” said Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last March by a 6-5 vote struck down a bill Madaleno and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced that would have banned anti-trans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. State Sens. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) voted against the measure.

Both Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) back the bill.

“I am very hopeful, given the way the culture has changed in a progressive direction in Maryland and given the support we now have from the Senate and House leadership, we will get the six votes in the Judicial Proceedings Committee to move the bill,” said Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland.

Evans told the Blade the gubernatorial campaign will only improve the measure’s chances of passing during this legislative session.

Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, whom Equality Maryland endorsed last month, told the Blade in a statement he is “fully committed” to passing the trans rights bill this year.

Evans said both Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, have pledged to testify in support of the measure in Annapolis.

“They will use the connections they have in the General Assembly to help us secure the votes we need,” said Evans. “Having Anthony Brown come and testify and talk about it is going to be instrumental in the legislature.”

Bob Wheelock, spokesperson for Attorney General Doug Gansler’s campaign, noted Gansler told Equality Maryland he backs the trans rights bill and would “definitely” sign it if lawmakers approve it. Gansler’s running mate, state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County), co-sponsored the measure in the House of Delegates in 2011.

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) also co-sponsored the 2011 bill.

“No one should face discrimination on the basis of gender identity — equality in Maryland shouldn’t have to wait this long,” she told the Blade. “I will be a vocal advocate for these important protections to ensure that all Marylanders are treated the same way in their jobs, housing and public accommodations.”

Measure seeks to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy to minors

State Del. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore County) has introduced a bill that would ban “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in Maryland.

The original version of House Bill 91 only includes sexual orientation, but Cardin’s legislative director Josh Greenfield told the Blade on Tuesday it will be amended to include gender identity and expression. Madaleno is also expected to introduce the measure in the Senate.

“There are numerous gay conversion therapy providers as well as organizations like the infamous International Healing Foundation located right here in Maryland advocating for what I consider very harmful conversion therapies,” said Cardin, noting Prince George’s County Public Schools last year stopped using an anti-bullying curriculum that included references to the Bowie-based organization and other “ex-gay” groups. “To me it is incredibly repulsive.”

Evans told the Blade that Equality Maryland is working with Cardin, who is running to succeed Gansler as attorney general, to “explore some non-legislative options to reach the same goals.” These include working with state boards that govern therapeutic practices in Maryland to change administrative policies.

“If we can do this without legislation, I am all about it,” said Cardin. “I am not interested in the glory. I’m interested in solving problems.”

International Healing Foundation Director Christopher Doyle criticized Cardin and others who seek to ban conversion therapy to minors in Maryland.

“This is not being fueled by mental health advocates,” Doyle told the Blade on Tuesday. “This is being done by political organizations that are more interested in promoting a political ideology as opposed to clients’ rights.”

Maryland lawmakers are also expected to debate the decriminalization of marijuana and the potential legalization of the drug during this session.

Equality Maryland is a member of a coalition of groups that seek to reform the state’s marijuana policy.

Mizeur in November announced she supports the legalization of marijuana as a way to fund early childhood education. Miller earlier this week adopted an identical position.

“Our prohibition laws have been a failure,” Mizeur told Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 during a Jan. 6 interview. “Maryland’s marijuana laws have ruined people’s lives.”

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Virginia

Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July

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(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’

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‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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Comings & Goings

Former D.C. resident opens art gallery in San Francisco

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Jonathan Carver Moore

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 Jonathan Carver Moore on opening his contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. The gallery specializes in working with emerging and established artists who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women. As the only openly gay Black male-owned gallery in San Francisco, Moore is committed to amplifying the voices of the often-underrepresented artists through a Black queer lens. He said, “I want the gallery to be a place where the LGBTQ+ community and people of color walk inside and see themselves knowing that they belong. I want us to be able to collect work from and support underrepresented artists who are often overlooked, but add some much value to our culture.”

Moore is also the founder of ARTUCATED, a digital journal that helps share, spotlight, and educate people about marginalized artists. Previously he was director of Donor Relations, Partnerships & Programming Director with the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. He was Communications Manager, Rosenberg Foundation; and Associate Director of Public Relations, Out & Equal, San Francisco Bay Area. 

Moore earned his bachelor’s in Sociology, Women’s Studies, from George Washington University in D.C.; and his master’s in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications, also from George Washington University.

Congratulations also to Jim Bobick on having his paintings included in a permanent collection by Saks Fifth Avenue. He said, “I am thrilled Saks Fifth Avenue chose my art for its permanent collection. I have long been a customer of the store and an admirer of the fashion designers represented there. I am especially pleased to know my work is on public view in the Chevy Chase, Maryland store. Not only did I grow up in the area, for part of my education I attended art school nearby, where I had the good fortune of studying under the notable painter Allen Dester Carter of Washington, D.C., whose work is in the Smithsonian collection. My ties to the Washington area art scene and my love of Saks makes this professional moment especially important to me. I am grateful and honored the store chose my paintings for their collection.” 

He has had numerous exhibitions of his work, including: Gallery 101 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (solo); Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, Fla. (group); Studio B “Delicacies” Washington, D.C. (group); Columbia Art Center “Abstract Paintings” (solo); and Gallery 50 “Freestyle” (solo) Rehoboth Beach, Del. He has been written about in several publications including Michael Mills, Jim Bobick Creates Landscapes of the Mind at Gallery 101, New Times; Arterpillar South Florida Arts Blog; Stefan Braham, Eclectic Expressions, Coastal Style Magazine; Artist Looks Beyond the Temporal Beauty, Coast Press.

He earned his bachelor’s in Visual Arts, University of Maryland, College Park, Fine Art; and attended the Maryland College of Art and Design. 

Jim Bobick
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