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Gay, lesbian Md. General Assembly incumbents seek re-election

State’s primary is on July 19



Maryland state Del.Gabriel Acevero and Ashanti Martinez (Photos courtesy of campaigns)

Six openly gay and lesbian Maryland General Assembly incumbents are on the July 19 ballot. Three other community members are also running for the Maryland House of Delegates. 

Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County)

Gabriel Acevero, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo courtesy of Gabriel Avecero)

Representing Legislative District 39, Acevero was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018 as the chamber’s first openly gay Afro-Latino member. Since his election, Acevero has established himself as a staunchly progressive voice in the General Assembly and has sponsored multiple efforts to ensure equality for the LGBTQ community, immigrants and other groups.

In a video posted to his official Facebook account, Acevero explained why he believed that, after the progress he and his supporters had been able to accomplish, running for re-election was necessary to continue the fight.

“But I also recognize that in order for us to build a more just and equitable and inclusive Maryland, there’s so much more work that we need to do,” Acevero said. “So, whether I’m in Annapolis or back here in District 39, I’ll continue to fight for our shared values and the issues that matter to you most.”

Del. Lisa Belcastro (D-Baltimore County)

Del. Lisa Belcastro (Photo courtesy of LGBTQ Victory Fund)

A former special education teacher, Belcastro represents Legislative District 11. She is a member of both the Health and Government Operations Committee and the Oversight Committee on Quality of Care in Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living Facilities.

After Gov. Larry Hogan appointed her to her seat in March 2020, Belcastro has engaged in efforts related to public education reform and LGBTQ rights, including sponsoring a bill to modernize birth and marriage certificates.

Seeking her first full term to the seat, Belcastro told the Washington Blade that her experience as an educator tied directly into her desire to seek re-election.

“I’m a teacher first and a legislator second,” Belcastro said. “I’m running to maintain my seat because we need voices in Annapolis that will put our students and schools first. It’s never been more important to fight for policies that create safe and welcoming schools that embrace the diversity of our human race.”

Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City)

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An assistant state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County, Clippinger has served in the House of Delegates since 2010. Representing Legislative District 46 in southeast and central Baltimore, he has held multiple leadership positions within the chamber’s Democratic coalition during his tenure.

The former chair of the House Democratic caucus and the current chair of the House Judiciary Committee has since championed causes like LGBTQ equality in the state, working to help pass its Marriage Equality Act and ban the use of the LGBTQ “panic” defense.

After filing for re-election, Clippinger wrote to his supporters on Facebook.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to represent District 46 in the Maryland General Assembly and, with your support, we’ll continue to do good for our neighbors and fight for our city,” Clippinger said.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal with regard to police reform and moving the ball forward on legalization of marijuana and reforming our juvenile justice system and I think there’s a lot more to do,” the Baltimore City Democrat told the Blade. “So, I look forward in another term to continuing work in all of those areas while at the same time being one of the members of the [LGBT] caucus in the General Assembly.”

Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County)

Del. Bonnie Cullison (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cullison has represented Legislative District 19 in the House of Delegates since 2011. The Montgomery County Democrat, among other things, has championed efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy in Maryland, extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and ensure abortion rights are preserved in the state.

“I have been a member of the District 19 community for 20 years,” says Cullison on her website. “I am committed to providing opportunities for a good quality of life for everyone, not only here in Aspen Hill, but throughout the state.”

Kris Fair

Kris Fair (Photo courtesy of Kris Fair)

Fair is running to represent Legislative District 3 in the House of Delegates. 

Fair is a lifelong Frederick County resident, and he currently serves as the executive director of the Frederick Center, an advocacy and support organization for LGBTQ people. Fair described his day-to-day responsibilities as “handling and providing support efforts for queer people everywhere,” which have contributed to his ambition to run for office.

Fair said that as a delegate and a former small-business owner in Frederick County, he hopes to correct “inequities and inefficiencies inside of our local government,” and make systems accessible for everyone — not just the well connected. 

“If you’re not lucky enough to have connections, you will not be able to get the access or support that is needed to support your business, and for me, that was a huge red flag,” Fair said. “We need to make sure that our systems are accessible and functional for a vast majority of the population, not just those of us who know the way the system works. The system should be working with us and for us, not the other way around.”

Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County)

Anne Kaiser, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo courtesy of Anne Kaiser)

Representing Legislative District 14, Kaiser has served in the House of Delegates for 2002. Kaiser now serves on the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

Accruing seniority in the Democratic caucus over two decades, Kaiser has held influential positions during her time in office including as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. She held the position beginning in 2017 until stepping down from the position in 2021.

Kaiser has been a consistent proponent of LGBTQ rights during her time in office, vocally opposing attempts in Maryland enact Florida-type “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that would limit discussion around LGBTQ issues in schools.

In announcing her decision to run for re-election, Kaiser pointed to her history of bipartisan work and her desire for bringing a “thoughtful, pragmatic approach” to legislating on behalf of constituents.

“I will never stop finding ways to be the voice of reason when issues get heated and when calm, steady leadership is needed,” Kaiser wrote on Facebook. “Now that I am a parent, I am ever more aware of the enormous impact our government can have on our lives. I’d like to continue this work not only on behalf of my own daughter and family — but yours too.”

Ashanti Martinez

(Photo courtesy of Ashanti Martinez)

Martinez is running to represent Legislative District 22 — northern Prince George’s County — in the House of Delegates. Currently, Martinez is an advocacy specialist at Casa, an immigrant advocacy nonprofit, and he hopes to bring representation for the LGBTQ community, support for women’s reproductive rights and focus on building a social safety net to the General Assembly. 

“I’m in this race because of COVID-19 — watching the inequities in our community only widen and seeing how when you fall in Maryland, you fail — there’s no safety net to catch you when you’re in crisis,” Martinez said. “I thought we needed someone in Annapolis who understands the issues that are facing working families and will be unapologetic about championing solutions for them.”

Martinez is also focused on supporting women’s reproductive rights on a state level, since the Democratic incumbent, Anne Healy, is anti-choice. 

“With Roe overturned, we know that state legislators are going to be the decision makers, when it comes to protecting choice,” Martinez said.

Joseph Vogel

Joseph Vogel (Photo courtesy of Joseph Vogel)

Vogel is running to represent Legislative District 17 in the House of Delegates, the same district his family settled in when they immigrated to the U.S. from Uruguay when Vogel was 3 years old. Vogel has worked to support progressive candidates and causes throughout Maryland and is an advocate for LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, gun violence prevention and increased education funding.

In an email statement sent to the Blade, Vogel explained why he decided to run for office.

“As a gay person, I have a unique understanding of what it is like to have elected officials debating and determining your rights,” Vogel said. “At a time when LGBTQ+ people and their rights are under attack across the country, we need to elect LGBTQ+ leaders who will stand up for our community and all those whose rights are threatened. As delegate, I’ll work to make Maryland more just and inclusive.”

Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City)

(Photo courtesy of Walter Ludwig)

Representing parts of inner-city Baltimore, Washington has served as a state senator for Legislative District 43 since 2018.

Washington served as a member of the House of Delegates from 2010 until being elected to the Maryland Senate. There, she served on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee as the state’s first openly LGBTQ African American elected official.

During her time in office, Washington has advocated for the LGBTQ community while also focusing much legislative effort around education funding and reform and community development.

In an endorsement message for House of Delegates candidate Logan Endow, Washington took to Twitter to explain how she and her colleagues when running for and representing their constituents.

“I believe our representatives should be up to today’s challenges, willing to grow, and lean into the work,” Washington wrote. “They should be Baltimore through and through, while also bringing national and global experiences that will enable them to be a strong, respected advocated and policy maker.”



Md. House of Delegates approves transgender rights bill

State Medicaid program would be required to cover gender-affirming treatment



Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 93-37 vote margin. The measure now goes before the Maryland Senate.

“Proud that the MD House of Delegates passed the Trans Health Equity Act with such a strong majority,” tweeted state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), who introduced HB 283.

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Man charged with ‘groomer’ vandalism arrested in child porn case

Move came eight months after police seized laptop during search of home



Charles Sutherland (Photo courtesy of the Prince George's County Police Department)

A Takoma Park, Md., man who was arrested last June on two counts of hate-related destruction of property for allegedly spray painting the word “groomer” on two public library buildings he told police were supportive of the LGBTQ community was arrested again on Feb. 3 for possession of child pornography.

According to charging documents filed in the District Court of Maryland in Rockville, Montgomery County police charged Charles M. Sutherland, 31, with six counts of misdemeanor possession of child pornography.

The charging documents state that the latest arrest is based on information obtained by police at the time Sutherland was charged last June in the spray-painting incident. At that time, the documents state, Sutherland waived his Miranda rights to remain silent, admitting to the vandalism allegations, and consented to a search of his residence.

The charging documents state that inside his apartment at 116 Lee Ave. in Takoma Park, police “observed numerous diapers, children’s dolls, and a child sized doll in the bed of Sutherland.” One of the charging documents adds, “According to Sutherland he has no children or nieces or nephews. Sutherland also stated that he had images consistent with child pornography on a laptop in his residence.”

That admission by Sutherland prompted Prince George’s County police to obtain a search warrant that enabled them to locate and seize the laptop, the charging document says. For reasons not explained, the charging document says it took until Jan. 11, 2023, about seven months, for a digital forensic examination of the laptop to be completed.

It says that on Jan. 31, P.G. County police arranged for a Montgomery County police detective to view video files and other images on the laptop that had been taken from Sutherland’s apartment. The charging document says most of the files consist of video images of a “prepubescent female’s vagina displayed as a focal point.” It says one of the files consists of an “image of prepubescent male with buttocks displayed.”

The online docket for the Maryland District Court for Montgomery County says a judge ordered Sutherland held without bond at the time he appeared in court for a bond hearing on March 1. 

WTOP News has reported that Sutherland is a librarian who at the time of his first arrest for vandalism last June had been working at Northview Elementary School in Bowie, Md. The school system has said Southerland was placed on administrative leave at that time. 

Court records show that a jury trial on the vandalism charges for Sutherland was scheduled for Aug. 8, 2023.

Neither Sutherland nor his attorney could be immediately reached for comment.

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Md. House committee advances transgender health care bill

HB 283 would require state Medicaid to cover gender-affirming treatment



The Maryland House of Delegates’ Health and Operations Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 17-6 vote margin.

The committee held a hearing on the measure last month. The Maryland Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 28 heard testimony on an identical measure that has been introduced in the state Senate.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on Senate Bill 761, which would improve conditions for trans and nonbinary people in the state’s correctional facilities. The House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 21 held a hearing on an identical measure, Senate Bill 453, or the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act.

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