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.”