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Lesbian judges seek election in Baltimore

‘Community can count on all of us for fair treatment in our courts’



Audrey Carrión, gay news, Washington Blade
Audrey Carrión, gay news, Washington Blade

Judges Audrey Carrión and Shannon Avery are running for a 15-year term. (Photo courtesy Carrión and Avery)

While much attention is being focused on Baltimore’s mayoral and City Council contests, another important race is taking place that impacts the city’s LGBT community. Six sitting judges on the Circuit Court, running as a slate, are seeking election for a term of 15 years. Their names will be on the ballot on April 26. They preside over the different cases that come to Circuit Court, including criminal, civil, family (divorce, child custody, adoptions) and juvenile.

Two of these judges are out lesbians: Shannon E. Avery and Audrey J.S. Carrión. The other four — Michael DiPietro, Karen C. Friedman, Wanda Keyes Heard and Cynthia H. Jones — have also demonstrated fairness toward LGBT Marylanders.

For example, Judge Friedman is well known for an opinion she wrote when she was a judge in the orphans’ court in which she broke ground in respecting the wishes of a same-sex couple prior to marriage equality.

“Judge DiPietro’s brother is an out gay man,” Avery told the Blade.  “Judges Jones and Heard have demonstrated values of fairness and equality to LGBT people. We all marched in the Pride parade last summer.”

She added, “While Audrey Carrión and I have a particular interest to the community, we can vouch for the whole ticket. The LGBT community can count on all of us for fair and equal treatment in our courts.”

Avery, who was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to the District Court in August 2010 and then to the Circuit Court in February 2014, has a long record of pro-LGBT activism since 1989. Aside from being on numerous boards and commissions and serving as an adviser to several elected officials, Avery is the past president of the FreeState Legal Project. She was co-chair of the Baltimore Justice Campaign that secured domestic partnership benefits for Baltimore City employees.

Avery spearheaded a police advisory board for LGBT issues, as well as an LGBT youth advocacy board that is now known as the Youth Equality Alliance (YEA!). She is currently a member of the International Association of LGBT Judges and works as an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Judge Carrión, a fellow of the Maryland Bar Foundation and the Baltimore City Bar Association Foundation, has been a member of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association since 1993. Carrión was appointed to both the District Court and Circuit Court by Gov. Parris Glendening. She currently sits on the Civil Docket of the court and is the director of the Business and Technology Case Management Program, which covers complex civil business matters.

“For approximately six years I was the judge in charge of our family division and in that role I created an atmosphere that was welcoming to our LGBT families,” Carrión told the Blade.  “I approved hundreds of same-sex second parents’ adoptions and included same-sex families in our annual adoption month celebration in November. It has always been important to me that LGBT families be treated with respect.”

Carrión added, “When I sat as the drug court judge in the Juvenile Division I made sure that the counselors who worked with our youth were sensitive to LGBT issues. Every year for the past 10 years I’ve taught the diversity section of the new judges’ orientation in which among other topics I cover LGBT subjects.”

Avery said it is important to have out lesbians and gay men represented in the judiciary because people need to see that the judiciary represents a fair cross-section of the population.

“It contributes to the legitimacy and sense of fairness of the courts,” she said. “We are really proud of the diversity of the six sitting judges who are running in 2016.”



Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14



(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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