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Mayor of Salisbury, Md. cancels Pride flag display

Decision ends five years of support for LGBTQ community

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Mayor Randolph Taylor has yanked the display of Pride flags in Salisbury, Md. (Screen capture via PAC 14 YouTube)

The City of Salisbury, Md., will not fly the Pride flag outside the city office building in downtown Salisbury. This will mark the first time in five years that a Pride flag will not fly at the city’s office for Pride month. 

Randolph J. Taylor, the mayor of Salisbury, told the Blade that the choice not to raise the flag was based on being “fair” and “transparent.”

“The administration’s position on the PFLAG kick-off is very simple,” Taylor said to the Blade in an email. “That is, to be neutral. Neutrality is not to be interpreted as anything else but simply that — being neutral.“

Taylor explained that the decision to appear more neutral was not to single out one particular group. “This is an approach the City has and will take with any other event held in the City of Salisbury as we entertain more than 100 events a year from a variety of groups and causes.”

Taylor concluded his statement with good wishes for PFLAG, the LGBTQ human rights organization that previously collaborated with the mayor on the flag raising and recently relocated within Salisbury.

“I am glad PFLAG has a new location on Carroll St. for its kick-off,” Taylor said. “The City of Salisbury wishes the event good luck!”

Nicole Hollywood, legislative chair for PFLAG Salisbury, said the decision not to promote cultural events using “city assets,” which includes the city’s flagpoles and street lamps, could impact longstanding celebrations of cultural heritage in the city. 

“We simply got an email saying that ‘we’re evaluating the use of city assets for cultural events,’ and ‘we don’t feel it’s appropriate moving forward to hang flags that represent special interest groups,’” Hollywood told the Blade regarding the denied request for flying the flag. “We were disheartened and made a statement saying that the planned event, which has occurred for a number of years always on the same day in the same location, is temporarily postponed until we could find an alternative.”

Hollywood continued, explaining that she, and other supporters of the LGBTQ community, have plans to bring the issue to the city council’s attention. She hopes to get a more standardized approach to the vetting of cultural events, like the Pride flag raising, in Salisbury. 

“We do have a request that we’ll be making in front of the city council, which is simply that a structure be put in place that’s uniform and equitable, that’s used to vet applications for flag raisings and other civic and cultural events,” she explained. “It isn’t clear, at this time, who exactly holds authority over city assets.”

In addition to her concerns regarding the current “murky” methods of approval for cultural events, Hollywood also highlighted her fears for the future of the Pride crosswalk in Salisbury. 

The crosswalk, which includes the classic rainbow Pride flag, the updated progressive Pride flag (that comprises the colors of the classic Pride flag, transgender pride flag, and stripes of black and brown to recognize people of color in the LGBTQ community), as well as a transgender flag, was the first to be installed in Maryland. 

Hollywood fears that if the city re-evaluates the crosswalks, it could be the beginning of the end of outward support for the LGBTQ community on any public land. 

“We think that it’s been a beacon of hope to people in the community having this rainbow, the trans, and progress Pride crosswalks,” Hollywood said. “We really want to protect and steward their existence because we know that if they’re painted over, or erased, that it won’t be as easy to get them back.”

Despite the shift in attitude from the city, some in the community have pledged to show their support in full force. The downtown business alliance in Salisbury, which works to foster growth for business in Salisbury, has encouraged its members to fly rainbow flags on private property in solidarity with PFLAG. 

“We’re trying to get as many people as possible to feel that they have a voice,” Hollywood said. “To feel that they’re included and to find other ways that we could celebrate queer joy.”

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Maryland

Moore pardons more than 175,000-plus cannabis-related convictions

Governor signed executive order at State House on Monday

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

BY BRENDA WINTRODE and PAMELA WOOD | Gov. Wes Moore pardoned more than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions Monday, nullifying guilty verdicts decided when carrying small amounts of the drug or paraphernalia was illegal.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order during a State House ceremony, granting clemency to thousands of people convicted in Maryland. The convictions to be pardoned include more than 150,000 misdemeanors for simple possession and more than 18,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia with an intent to use.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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Maryland

Trans woman wins Miss Maryland USA, making history with a list of pageant firsts

Bailey Anne Kennedy won crown on June 1

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Bailey Anne Kennedy smiles with tears in her eyes as she holds a bouquet and wears a tiara and Miss Maryland 2024 sash. The previous year's winner adjusts her sash and other beauty pageant contestants smile and applaud behind her. (Photo by Anthony M. Gomes/Miss Maryland USA)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | She’s 31. She’s married to a military officer. She’s Asian American. And she’s a trans woman.

When Bailey Anne Kennedy was crowned on Saturday as Miss Maryland USA, she broke almost every barrier that existed in the state’s pageant history. And she did it with her first pageant.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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