Attorney General Doug Gansler this week attacked Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown’s record on LGBT rights ahead of the June 24 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Gansler repeatedly described Brown’s support for the same-sex marriage and transgender rights bills that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in 2012 and last month respectively as “lukewarm” during an interview with the Washington Blade on Monday.
The attorney general questioned whether the lieutenant governor voted for the same-sex marriage law when it went before voters in a 2012 referendum. Gansler acknowledged that Brown testified in support of the trans rights bill in March, but suggested he could have done more.
“There’s the public and then there’s the behind the scenes,” said Gansler. “My understanding [is] he really didn’t lift a finger to help except show up that one day to testify.”
Brown defended his record in support of same-sex marriage during an interview with the Blade on Monday.
He stressed he worked with LGBT rights advocates to raise money for the 2012 campaign to defend the gay nuptials law at the ballot box. Brown pointed out to the Blade that he discussed his support for the issue during his first national television interview with MSNBC the year before.
Brown noted he also opposed efforts to define marriage as between a man and a woman while in the Maryland House of Delegates after gays and lesbians began to legally tie the knot in Massachusetts in 2004.
“We’re in the last week of an election and there’s a lot of comments that I think reveal desperation and a distortion or manipulation of the truth,” he said. “I can tell you that my commitment to marriage equality was long standing.”
Brown also reiterated his support for the trans rights bill, noting he spoke with “a number” of lawmakers and “coordinated my efforts with” Equality Maryland. He told the Blade he could not recall any specific conversations he may have had with state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and other lawmakers who had previously voted against similar measures.
“I said identify for me where you think I could be most helpful,” said Brown, referring to his work with Equality Maryland to advance the bill. “It was all based on what we thought was the best strategy to try to get the votes and the support we needed.”
Gansler says Equality Maryland ‘traded’ Brown endorsement
Gansler also told the Blade he still believes Equality Maryland “traded” its endorsement of Brown for his support of the trans rights bill.
“That is what we were told,” Gansler told the Blade. “They endorsed somebody who did absolutely nothing on the issue of marriage equality. He took no steps in advancing the cause of marriage equality or any other LGBT rights [issue] as far as I can tell. He was visibly uncomfortable talking about the issue.”
Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans described Gansler’s claim as an “unfounded” and “untrue accusation.”
She noted the attorney general during his “on the record” interview with the Equality Maryland Political Action Committee last year questioned whether Brown voted for the same-sex marriage law during the 2012 referendum.
“The interview team was shocked to hear Gansler insinuate this and agreed that it did not bode well for Gansler’s ability to restrain himself and carry himself with integrity and dignity as our governor,” Evans told the Blade. “Moreover, for him to insinuate, twice, that Equality Maryland traded our endorsement for Brown’s support of [the Fairness for All Marylanders Act] is insulting.”
Gansler also told the Blade in response to a question about state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County)’s plan to legalize marijuana in Maryland that the Montgomery County Democrat is “not seen as a viable candidate in terms of the election.” He further suggested that a Republican could become Maryland’s next governor in November if Brown wins the Democratic primary because of his tax proposals.
“Voters want to hear about the issues, and are tired of these personal, baseless attacks from our opponents,” Mizeur’s campaign manager, Joanna Belanger, told the Blade on Tuesday. “That’s why Heather continues to see momentum as she runs a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter most to Maryland families and seniors.”
Gansler questioning Brown’s record on marriage rights for same-sex couples and trans rights comes as all three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates continue to court LGBT voters ahead of next Tuesday’s primary.
The attorney general noted to the Blade that in 2008 he became the first statewide official in Maryland to back marriage rights for same-sex couples when he testified before a state Senate committee. State Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) later tried to impeach him over the issue.
Gansler in 2010 wrote an opinion that said Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.
“I’ve never understood the arguments against marriage equality, so I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Gansler. “That’s why I ran for office; to stand up for things that I thought were unfair or unjust.”
Gansler submitted testimony in support of the trans rights bill. His running mate, state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County), co-sponsored an identical measure in the House of Delegates that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced.
Mizeur, who could become the first openly gay governor in the country if she wins the general election in November, earlier this year testified in support of the trans rights bill before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
She and her running mate, Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, who testified in support of same-sex marriage in 2012, marched in the annual Baltimore Pride Parade on Saturday. Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, also took part in the event.
“[Coates] and I are focused on not making history, but making a difference,” Mizeur told the Blade during an interview earlier this month. “Delman and I are the representation to the end of identity politics that divides communities.”
Campaign finance reports indicate that Brown continues to maintain a significant fundraising edge over Gansler and Mizeur, who has accepted public campaign funds. Polls also show the lieutenant governor has a double-digit lead over his two Democratic rivals ahead of the primary.
Frosh a ‘firm ally’
The outcome of a number of other statewide and local races will likely be determined in the June 24 Democratic primary.
State Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) will face state Dels. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore County) and Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) in the race to succeed Gansler as attorney general.
Equality Maryland in April endorsed Frosh, noting the role that Evans said he played in securing passage of the trans rights bill in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Cardin earlier this year introduced a bill that sought to ban “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the state.
“Brian Frosh has been a firm ally and leader on LGBT issues in the General Assembly,” said Evans. “He has the maturity, experience and commitment to be an effective advocate for the LGBT communities of Maryland as our next attorney general.”
State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will square off against Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the 18th Senate District that includes Chevy Chase, Wheaton, Kensington and portions of Silver Spring and Bethesda.
George Zokle is running to represent House District 20 that includes Takoma Park and Silver Spring. Kevin Walling, Equality Maryland’s director of communications and development from 2008-2010 — a period when the organization faced serious financial difficulties — dropped his bid to represent House District 16 that includes Bethesda and Potomac.
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed both men, along with Madaleno.