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Protests continue over Mont. Co. policy of ‘no opt-out’ for LGBTQ curricula

Parents file lawsuit to reverse rule; LGBTQ supporters stage counter protests



Hundreds of parents participated in a demonstration outside the Montgomery County School Board’s office in Rockville, Md., on July 20 to protest a policy by the county’s public school system that doesn’t allow parents to opt-out their children from classes in which lessons or books on LGBTQ related topics are taught.

The protests against the no opt-out policy, as well as counter protests by LGBTQ supportive students and parents, began in March when the Montgomery County Public Schools announced it had ended a temporary opt-out allowance that it started in October.

School system officials said the no opt-out policy is for lessons and books that were part of a plan to diversify an English language arts curriculum that includes lessons covering LGBTQ related issues as well as other diversity related issues like race, religion, and ethnicity.

School officials point out that the LGBTQ lessons are separate from sex education classes taught in the 10th grade for which parents are allowed to opt-out their children on religious grounds or for other reasons.

The parents who want the school system to reverse the policy to allow an opt-out on LGBTQ lessons or books say these lessons infringe on their religious rights based on the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

Several parents filed a lawsuit in May against the Montgomery County Public Schools, on religious rights grounds, asking a judge to issue a temporary injunction to halt the no opt-out policy by Aug. 28, when the first day of school begins for the 2023-2024 school year.

The lawsuit calls for a permanent end to the no opt-out policy that is expected to be litigated over the next year or longer.

“We are religious; we have rights as Americans,” Adon Gedie, a mother of a kindergarten student, told News 4 Washington. “Our kids have a right to be raised as a kid,” she told the TV news station.

“It should be the parents’ right,” Mark Haile, the father of three MCPS students, told News 4 Washington. “Parents should discuss with their kids to decide what they learn,” he said.

News 4 Washington also interviewed some of the counter protesters, who expressed support for the no opt-out policy, including the school system’s selection of LGBTQ related books.

“The books geared to younger kids are just showing a diverse range of families,” Christina Celenza, a mother of a Montgomery County student, told the TV news station. “We have a two-mom household, so my wife and I are really proud and out, and, of course, my kid in kindergarten or pre-K is going to probably talk about his family and his two moms.”

The Washington Post reported that in a court filing in response to the lawsuit, the school system said the current no opt-out policy is lawful “because it doesn’t coerce [the families] into restraining from raising their children according to their religious values or penalize their efforts to direct their children’s religious upbringing.”

The school system response, according to the Post, also points out that school district leaders met with school principals and determined that “individual schools could not accommodate the growing number of opt-out requests without causing significant disruptions.”

Christopher Cram, a spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools, sent the Washington Blade a copy of the school system’s most recent statement regarding its LGBTQ related curricula and lessons. Among other things, the statement says all lessons and instructional materials “are age and developmentally appropriate” and, “There is no LGBTQ+ curriculum in elementary school.”

The statement, called Inclusive and Welcoming Learning in Montgomery County Public Schools, adds, “LGBTQ+ inclusive books benefit all students by promoting acceptance and respect and teaching them more about the diverse people and families in the world.”



Moms for Liberty is winning its fight to remove books from one Md. school district

56 books are temporarily off Carroll County library shelves



(Bigstock photo)

By Kristen Griffith | Carroll County Public Schools can’t keep up with a flood of requests to review 56 school library books by a group of parents who oppose their content, so the superintendent has temporarily taken them off the shelves.

Flooding the queue is the conservative parents-rights group Moms for Liberty, whose Carroll County chapter has joined its nationwide call for stricter school library book selection, targeting titles with sexual content, in particular.

The rest of this article can be found at the Baltimore Banner website.

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Md. governor visits, praises Baltimore LGBTQ Safe Haven

Moore calls facility ‘invaluable resource’ for community



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Sept. 8 visited Baltimore Safe Haven. Moore is pictured here at the 2023 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and the state’s lieutenant governor, Aruna Miller, on Sept. 8 visited Baltimore Safe Haven, a transitional housing and support organization that provides a wide range of services for the LGBTQ community, with a special outreach to the transgender community.

A statement released by Moore’s office says the visit was made in partnership with the Maryland Commission on LGBTQIA+ Affairs and provided an opportunity for him and Miller to tour Safe Haven’s housing facilities and learn more about the services it offers.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion, and nobody should have to justify their own humanity,” Moore said in a statement. “Baltimore Safe Haven provides help and hope to the people who need it most,” he said. “The only way forward is together, and Baltimore Safe Haven has a partner in the State House.”

Moore added, “We have a lot of work to do, and we must tackle that work in partnership. If we do, we can build a kinder, safer Maryland for all.”

Miller said in the statement that she and the governor fully support Baltimore Safe Haven’s work and mission.

“Baltimore Safe Haven’s services are a critical link in the continuum of care for our LGBTQIA+ community, specifically for Black transgender Marylanders, and our administration is proud to be their partner,” she said.

Iya Dammons, the founder and executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven who on July 28 officially opened a D.C. Safe Haven facility at 331 H St., N.E., said the visit by Moore and Miller to the Baltimore facility has highlighted the organization’s work to provide support for people in need.

“Baltimore Safe Haven has been at the forefront of this fight, providing a lifeline to those who have been disproportionately affected by homelessness, discrimination, and violence,” she said in a statement. “During their walk-through, Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller and Governor Wes Moore witnessed firsthand the compassionate and empowering environment created by Baltimore Safe Haven.”

Added Dammons, “We hope that their visit will inspire others to join our mission to create a more inclusive and equitable Maryland.”

 Like the Baltimore Safe Haven operation, Dammons said the D.C. Safe Haven will provide a wide range of services, including housing for homeless LGBTQ youth, a computer lab, a drop-in center, a case manager, and a once-a-week clinic supported by the University of Maryland.

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Md. man pleads guilty to making threats against HRC

Adam Nettina left voicemail after massacre at Nashville’s Covenant School



Adam Michael Nettina (Photo courtesy of the Justice Department)

A Maryland man has pleaded guilty to making threats against the Human Rights Campaign.

The Justice Department in a press release notes Adam Michael Nettina, 34, of West Friendship, Md., pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of using interstate communications with a threat to injure.

The press release notes Nettina admitted to leaving a threatening voicemail on March 28, 2023, that referenced the massacre at the Covenant School in Nashville, which took place the day before.

“The message referenced a mass shooting that had happened the day before at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, involving multiple shooting fatalities, where the perpetrator was a transgender woman,” notes the press release. “During the call to the advocacy organization on March 28, Nettina made multiple threats, including, ‘…We’ll cut your throats. We’ll put a bullet in your head … You’re going to kill us? We’re going to kill you 10 times more in full.'”

The Justice Department said Nettina “admitted to leaving the threatening voicemail and to targeting his victims because of their actual and perceived gender, gender identity and sexual orientation” and acknowledged he sent threatening messages to two lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland who publicly support trans people.”

Nettina faces up to five years in prison.

“The defendant in this case attempted to terrorize the LGBTQI+ community by calling in multiple threats of violence to a local advocacy group,” said Luis Quesada, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will not tolerate these acts of hate, and we remain committed to investigating civil rights violations and keeping our communities safe and free from fear.”

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