July 14, 2020 at 11:09 am EDT | by Philip Van Slooten
Acevero to reintroduce Md. police reform bill
Gabriel Acevero, gay news, Washington Blade
Maryland state Del. Gabriel Avecero (D-Montgomery County) (Photo courtesy of Avecero)

Maryland state Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) says he will reintroduce a police reform bill when the General Assembly reconvenes next session.

Anton’s Law failed to advance last session, which was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anton’s Law is named after Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black man who died in police custody in 2018 in Greensboro, a town in Caroline County on the Eastern Shore. The bill that seeks to restrict protections for police officers accused of misconduct has become a flashpoint due to recent protests and police unions’ resistance to legislative reform.

“Protesting is a public way to show dissent and assert one’s humanity,” Acevero told the Washington Blade during a recent telephone interview. “And we should be recognizing the intersectionality of this issue by joining the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure we are fighting for all lives, including trans, non-binary and Black people with disabilities.”

The New York Times on July 2 reported the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents Black and Latino food service workers, fired Acevero for sponsoring Anton’s Law. The union also represents police officers.

Acevero has filed a formal complaint against his union with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing it of illegally firing him because of his legislative work.

During the previous legislative session, law enforcement testified against Anton’s Law, arguing that “unsubstantiated charges” and related files should not be released to the public until after the investigation is complete, reported the Baltimore Sun.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan had to intervene in order for Black’s family to receive information regarding his death. This reform measure sponsored by Acevero would require the release of investigatory files and prior complaints made against an officer in question.

Acevero also supports calls by protesters to defund police departments and increase funding for social and community services.

“We’re shining light on the excessive spending that for Black and Brown LGBTQ Americans often means more criminalization, more brutalization and more extra judicial killings,” Acevero told the Blade. “So what we’re saying is to trim, to cut back and to reallocate those funds and resources to communities that need it the most and have been intentionally neglected for many years. Not just for the LGBTQ community, but for immigrants and the working poor also.”

Acevero backs universal health care for all Md. residents

To further help these groups, Acevero is also preparing to reintroduce the Healthy Maryland Act which according to the bill’s summary intends to “provide comprehensive universal health coverage for every Maryland resident.”

Acevero said this is critical in the midst of a pandemic which has exacerbated the economic and health disparities for the Black and Brown and LGBTQ communities in Maryland and across the U.S.

“The disparities that we see are borne out of a lack of health insurance among LGBTQ Americans and particularly among LGBTQ people of color,” he said. “Even for those who are privileged to have health insurance — it doesn’t mean you’re going to get quality and competent care.”

He explained there are still discriminatory practices some health care professionals engage in that prevent LGBTQ people, particularly those who are Black, gender nonconforming or differently abled, from receiving the health care they deserve.

“No one who identifies as LGBTQ should be on the wrong side of police violence,” Acevero said, viewing health care and other systemic disparities to be related. “We should continue to dismantle the system and the policies that are discriminatory and dangerous and make the statement that black lives matter true.”

Acevero represents House District 39, which includes Germantown and Montgomery Village, in the Maryland House of Delegates. Acevero is the first openly gay man who is Afro-Latino to be elected to the General Assembly.

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