Monday, March 28, 2011

Hats Off to Mayor Peter Fosselman

Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman will become the new Deputy Secretary of State in mid-April. He'll remain mayor as he takes on his new post. Congratulations, Pete!


MCEA, MCAAP and SEIU Local 500 Plan Large Rally for April 5th

Announcement from MCEA, SEIU Local 500, NCAAP

Tuesday, April 5 in Rockville, SEIU Local 500, MCEA, and MCAAP members along with parents and students will be rallying against budget cuts to schools in Montgomery County. MCPS is an incredibly successful school system (consistently rated among the best in the nation) with unions and tenure and without a single charter school. We’re not “waiting for superman” here. But all that we’ve built is threatened by budget cuts.

Link to rally details and sign-up page:



Helping Our Neighbors with Disabilities


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

College Dems at Del. Arora's Alma Mater Slam Sam

Statement by Columbia University College Democrats

Like so many throughout Maryland and across the nation, the Columbia University College Democrats were shocked and disappointed that the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act had to be recommitted to the Judiciary Committee on March 11 after it was determined that it would fall a handful of votes short of passage. hough we have high hopes that the bill will pass next year, we cannot help but Bemoan the frustrating pace of progress. Our sympathy goes out to the thousands of Marylanders who were hoping to become full citizens this year.

As an organization committed to advancing marriage equality in New York and nationwide, we eagerly followed the campaign of Sam Arora last year, not only because of his active outreach to LGBT organizations and constituencies, but because of his strong record of activism that dates back to his days at our university. We were so proud when one of our own was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates.

After witnessing Delegate Arora’s wavering during the course of this debate—which surely contributed to the momentum that ultimately doomed the bill’s chances for this year—we cannot keep our disapproval to ourselves. Though he eventually reaffirmed his intention to vote for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, Delegate Arora’s actions (which included supporting an amendment that would allow private agencies to deny adoption rights to same-sex couples and advocating a referendum that would put the rights of LGBT citizens up for a popular vote) betrayed the commitment he made to Marylanders during his campaign and demonstrated a disregard for the dignity of the many LGBT people whom he represents.

The Columbia University College Democrats call on Delegate Arora to reach out to his LGBT constituents—and the many other individuals and organizations who supported him—to reaffirm his commitment to equality. We expect Delegate Arora to use his remaining time left in office to vigorously advocate for the rights of LGBT Marylanders, including voting for the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. We hope Delegate Arora will make his alma mater proud. Primary season is just around
the corner.


Friday, March 18, 2011

ABC-Post Poll Reports Majority Support for Marriage Equality Nationally

The best summary of the polls is at ABC News. The headline figure is that supporters outnumber opponents by 53 percent to 44 percent. Support has grown particularly sharply "among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men." The poll also found support identical among whites and racial minority groups. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Vice President Joe Biden called marriage equality "inevitable."


Thursday, March 17, 2011

No Matter How You Slice It

I tried to draw a majority-Republican legislative district in Montgomery. It no longer seems possible. This district went 62-36 for Obama in 2008 and 63-37 for O'Malley in 2006.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher on Last Friday

Dear Friends,

You know, not everyone is like Joanna and me. Scientists tell us that about 10% of folk are simply wired differently than the other 90. One hundred years ago, those in the majority - parents especially - often tried dramatic measures to alter the habits of those in the minority. The common practice was behavioral therapy, which was simply punishment under a more polite name. Ronald Reagan was in that 10%. So is President Obama. Against all odds (they're fraternal), when given crayons, both of my twins also appear to be left-handed. (When they're not busy eating the crayons, of course!)

The whole of human history is filled with inflection points where the representatives of "us" - democratic or otherwise - welcome our neighbors into the community of us. "Not us" becomes us, and we are richer because of it. It is often uneventful, as with left-handedness. It is occasionally bloody, as with skin color. And sometimes it happens with the push of a button.

Last week, I planned to press my green button to provide full and equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. But it was not to be. Knowing the legislation was about two votes short, advocates asked for it to be recommitted without a vote. This means the bill is dead for this year. I have been vocal in my belief that, short of victory, an up-or-down vote would have been the next best thing. A true "loss" this year would have provided the accountability, vote-count, and inspiration necessary to get back on our horse and fight for this again next year.

And fight we will. I am optimistic that I'll be writing to you at this point in 2012, having just pressed that green button. And when I finally get that chance, I won’t be doing it because I'm a Democrat, or because I'm a democrat. I won’t be doing it because of tolerance, or pluralism. I won’t be doing it for me, or even for my gay friends or relatives. I'll be doing it for the simplest and most important reason I can think of - because of our shared humanity.

In other words, I’ll be doing it for us.
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jonathan Capehart Rips Sam Arora and Tiffany Alston

His must read column in the Washington Post. Capehart already went after Del. Arora earlier. Above is the same YouTube video of Rep. John Lewis, civil rights leader and icon, he uses in his post.


Anne Arundel Legislative Districts?

Excluding District 21, which is mostly in Prince George's, Anne Arundel currently elects 12 delegates, eight of whom are Republicans. This map might reverse that partisan balance. It was constructed without any knowledge of current legislator home addresses.

Based on its population, Anne Arundel is entitled to four full legislative districts and also could contain a subdistrict electing a single delegate. Bear in mind that the population figures may be a bit off as Maryland requires that the numbers be readjusted to reallocate the prison population to their last known address.

The grey district in northeastern Anne Arundel is similar to current District 31 which elects three Republicans except that it loses some territory in Glen Burnie and gains new (Republican-leaning) territory in central Anne Arundel. The new district would be very Republican, having voted for McCain over Obama by 62-36, to the benefit of Democrats elsewhere.

The three other complete legislative districts would favor Democrats, though by a smaller amount. The pink district in northwestern Anne Arundel is similar to current District 32 (which currently elects three Democrats) except that it is shift somewhat east. This district voted 54-44 for Obama in 2008 and 58-42 for O'Malley in 2006.

The blue district in western Anne Arundel is most similar to District 33 but with major changes, including taking in most of the Anne Arundel section of District 21. The district outlined here voted 54-45 for Obama and was about two points more Democratic in the 2006 gubernatorial election. In the 2010 election, District 33 elected three Republicans though this district might be more favorable to the Democrats.

The Annapolis-based district in eastern Anne Arundel went 53-45 for Obama and was about two points more Democratic in the 2006 gubernatorial election. Current District 30 elects one Democrat--Speaker Michael Busch--and two Republicans. As it sheds Republican-leaning territory for more favorable turf, Democrats might also perform more strongly here.

The purple district in southern Anne Arundel would elect just one delegate. It listed heavily Republican--56-43 for Obama--in the 2008 presidential election but went for Ehrlich by only four points in 2006.


Harford State Legislative Districts?

Harford is a very Republican county in a very Democratic state. As in Frederick, the population growth that warrants giving additional representation to the area would seemingly be good news for the GOP. Except that it all depends on how the lines are drawn.

The 2010 Census revealed that Harford now has enough population for almost complete two legislative districts--an increase of virtually a full delegate over ten years ago. The above map shows one sample plan for two districts in Harford. Bear in mind that the population figures may be a bit off as Maryland requires that the numbers be readjusted to reallocate the prison population to their last known address.

As shown here, the northern district would be very Republican--it went for McCain over Obama by a margin of 67-31. It somewhat resembles current District 35 except that the current district takes in Bel Air and the map above would place it in the southern district. District 35 is divided into two subdistricts--including one centered on Bel Air which elects one delegate. The senator and all three delegates are Republicans.

The southern district would lean marginally to the Democrats in presidential elections. Obama carried it over McCain by 50-48 but Democrats fared considerably better in state elections. This district resembles current House of Delegates Subdistrict 34A (though that district does not include Bel Air) which now elects one Democrat and one Republican. District 34 has a Republican senator.

One might expect that the new version of District 34 would be highly competitive. Except that I suspect that someone with access to software that allowed one to fine tune the lines to a higher degree than I used here--and no doubt anyone doing this for real would have that access--could draw the map so that it leans more strongly to the Democrats.

Another alternative would be to create a two-member subdistrict that would likely send two Democrats to the House in Annapolis and a one-member subdistrict centered on Bel Air that would be much more likely to elect a Republican even as the Senate seat remained marginal.

In short, the Democrats may well be no worse off--and may even benefit--from gains in representation in a county that leans to the Republicans. The geographic political divide--Republicans tend to live in northern Harford while Democrats are concentrated in southern Harford--facilitates a maps with this result.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Frederick State Legislative Districts?

Here is a potential map for two state legislative districts centered on Frederick County. Bear in mind that the population figures may be a bit off as Maryland requires that the numbers be readjusted to reallocate the prison population to their last known address.

Republicans hope that growth in "Republican" parts of the State, like Frederick might aid their party in legislative contests. However, the number of Democrats has grown along with Frederick's population and it is not difficult to draw one legislative district that leans to each party.

The northern district would be heavily Republican, having gone for McCain over Obama by 59-39. It includes a small slice of Washington County, though it could alternatively include part of Carroll County. District 4 now includes much of the same territory in Frederick as well as a big slice of western Carroll which is currently a separate subdistrict (4B) for elections to the House of Delegates. District 4 currently elects all Republicans.

The southern district includes the City of Frederick and would lean heavily Democratic; it went for Obama over McCain by 57-42. This district resembles current District 3 which is broken into two districts for purposes of House elections. District 3A is centered on the City of Frederick and elects one Democrat and one Republican. District 3B includes southern Frederick County and elects a Republican.

If the new district were at large, both Republican delegates might face a stiff fight for reelection. On the other hand, both might find hope in the fact they have already done well in territory that has otherwise been favorable to Democrats. Sen. Ron Young defeated Alex Mooney to take District 3's Senate seat in 2010.


Seven Democratic Districts?

One exciting aspect of redistricting this year is that almost anyone can play. Here is hurriedly drawn-up plan that shows one of many possible redistricting scenarios for 2012.

This map provides an extremely rough example of what a congressional redistricting plan with seven Democratic-leaning districts might look like. Extending the Sixth into Montgomery, where it used to go back in the 1980s when I lived in Beverly Byron's district, would switch it from a Republican to Democratic leaning district. All of the other six current Democratic districts continue to lean Democratic.

This map preserves the Fourth and Seventh as black-majority districts. The Fourth swaps territory in Montgomery for Anne Arundel. The Seventh no longer extends into Howard County--placed entirely in a substantially reworked Third District here--but takes in more of Baltimore County.

The First is very safe for Republicans by taking in strong Republican territory along the Mason-Dixon line as well as the Eastern Shore. The most severe changes likely would occur in the Baltimore area districts, particularly the Second and the Third Districts.

Note that the populations are only roughly, not perfectly equal. Also, the addresses of the incumbents (and other serious potential contenders) were unknown when this was drawn so to the extent that people are moved in or out of their current district the impact was unintended.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

It Gets Better - Gay Orthodox Jews


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Del. Anne Kaiser's Floor Speech for Marriage Equality

Mr. Speaker-

It will come as no surprise to you that I support this bill -- and I do so unequivocally, unabashedly. My green vote today is a vote for equality and equal protection under the law. It is a vote against bigotry. Against fear. It is a vote in favor of love and stability.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker -- members of this body believe that what I want -- and what thousands of other Americans want, which is to marry the person they love -- is somehow immoral or against god. Strong religious beliefs seem to be a main theme in the opposition.

Throughout this entire marriage equality debate, I have asked countless people to share with me a single legal argument against marriage equality. There are none.

Mr. Speaker -- some people who oppose this bill have even gone as far to say that if this bill passes -- I might someday be allowed to marry a toaster… a robot… or even a household pet. These arguments have sickened me -- and sadden me -- and have been so offensive I can barely stand it. As if my marriage to my girlfriend might bring about some dramatic end to civilization as we know it.

Mr. Speaker -- I want something so very simple. And so does my girlfriend of eight years. We want to be married. We want our relationship to be formally recognized by the state. We want all the rights and privileges that come along with marriage. And, we want to get married in Maryland -- the state where we have made our lives together and where I have spent my entire life.

I want to get married during my parent’s lifetime. My mother is 75. My father is 78. Please don’t tell my mother I “outted” her age on the House floor. My mother -- a mother of a Jewish lesbian -- is just like your mother. She doesn’t like her age being bandied about publicly. And I can assure you that she didn’t bank on having a lesbian daughter. But she has one. And even though she is 75 years old -- born only 15 years after women in our country earned the right to vote -- she too stands for equality.

She did what so many mothers do when she heard her daughter was gay. She cried at first and then she told me she loved me. And then she told me she loved me again. And then she made me lunch. Those Jewish mothers can be a little repetitive, especially when they are telling you they love you. But over time she understood that I deserve the same rights, the same equal protection as any other person. I deserve to marry the person I love.

I come from a family that values marriage. And like me and many of you, my mother doesn’t understand how my marriage to my girlfriend would in any way weaken or make less meaningful her marriage to my father. They have been married for over 50 years. My mother’s parents were married for 67 years. My aunt was married for 55 years. I come from a family that values marriage.

Mr. Speaker -- it’s obvious to me that this is an issue that has divided this house along party lines, and in some ways, along racial lines as well as religious lines. For at least five percent of the members of this body -- this is a deeply personal issue. For so many more, who have gay or lesbian relatives or friends -- it is also a deeply personal and important vote today.

With the push of our button today, we have the ability to ensure equality to thousands of Marylanders -- to confer more than 400 benefits and legal protections that come with marriage. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of our country that Maryland stands for equality. We have the chance to put fear and hatred in its place. We have the chance to endorse love.

I am voting green today, Mr. Speaker. Because I just don’t understand why anyone in this body would oppose the economic benefits that would come to our state if this marriage bill passes. I am voting green today because there is no legal argument that the opposition has. I am voting green today because I want a family that is recognized under the law.

I cast my green vote not only for myself, not only for my constituents, not only for my Mother and Father -- but for all Marylanders who stand for equality. I urge every member who believes that he or she is opposed to this legislation, ask yourself this simple question: what would be so horribly detrimental if the lady from Montgomery County could marry her partner? What would be so detrimental if the lady from Baltimore City could marry her partner? Or the gentleman from Southern Maryland could marry his partner?

Whatever happens today, I will still love my girlfriend. She will still love me. Our parents and friends will still love us.

I urge the body to vote in favor of equality, civil rights, equal protection and love.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.


What Happened?

Live Blogging the Debate

I plan to share my thoughts about the outcome of yesterday's debate more fully at a later time. For now, I just wanted to respond to my queries about the motion to recommit the marriage equality bill to committee.

The House of Delegates agreed on a unanimous voice vote to recommit the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. This decision effectively kills the bill for the year. Many people naturally wonder why no vote was taken after all of the hard work that was done to advance the bill by so many people inside and outside of the legislature. Proponents agreed to this because they fell a few votes short of those needed to pass the bill on the floor of the House.

The argument for a vote is clear. People have a right to know where their legislators stand on such an important issue. Regardless of the outcome, it would have been the democratic process in action with delegates reflecting the will of their constituents and acting as our representatives.

On the other hand, proponents would have lost by a greater number than the closeness of the unofficial count because some "yes" votes would have become "no" votes. Legislators in marginal districts who might have been willing to stick their necks out to pass a meaningful piece of legislation would not do so if the legislation was going to fail.

Additionally, going forward, it is a lot harder to convert the votes of people who have cast a vote on the floor against marriage than it is to gain the votes of the undecided or who have said they oppose it but have yet to cast an actual vote on the topic. The thought behind not holding a vote is that it makes it easier to bring it up again next year and also does not demoralize opponents in other states. That was the thinking behind the decision to recommit.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Bill Recommitted to Judiciary Committee

Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario is now speaking.

And then I started to think where Martin Luther King would be on this issue.

I sent this issue to floor so yoru voice would be heard.

Our people have been involved.

At this time, I am going to move to have this bill recommitted to the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill was recommitted to the Judiciary Committee without a single nay vote.


Debate Continues

Del C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) is speaking against the bill. Not everyone who opposes this bill opposes that love. Some of us are leading as we see right." "I have not had a chance to take this to my constituents."

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-Bethesda) speaks "proudly in support of this bill on behalf of my two young children. I worry for them as I hear about the struggles that my gay and lesbian friends have gone through. IN order to send the right message to all of our children, we need to stand strong. I'm a person of faith. There is no one person less imperfect than the rest of us."

"My religious marriage is completely separate and distinct from my civil marriage." Discusses her person family story of being born Catholic and becoming Jewish.

Del. Al Carr is speaking about his grandfather, an African-American man who married a white woman from Ontario of Scottish descent who could not live in MD because in 1910 their marriage was illegal so they moved to OH.

"I'm very fortunate to live in Maryland and have a wonderful wife and children. I cannot imagine what it woudl be to live life as a second class citizen. I am really the first generation in my family to have all of these rights and privileges. Because of some votes that were taken in this very body, I am able to take these things for granted." Speaking about law banning interracial marriage. "As I cast my green vote, I think of Del. Roy Hart (Prince George's) who cast his vote to repeal this law even though it was very, very unpopular."

"I am proud to vote green for a more just and a more inclusive Maryland." I think the day will come when it seems amazing that we seem to have a vote on this issue."

Speaking about Norm Stone who voted against repealling the ban on interracial marriage. Woudl he say he made the right vote today?

Go Al!


Del. Bonnie Cullison Speaks

"Virtually every single decision affects the lives of people but there is no vote over the next four years that will affect me mire equally."

"This is the vote that will determine if we really believe if all men and women really are equal and deserve the same rights."

"I want you to know me. I live a simple but busy life. I taught special education for years. I became the leader of educators. We took positive steps to close the achievement gap by developing the most rigorously evaluation system in this country."

"when my county lacked the money, I led my organization to vote to give up money so we could continue to educate kids."

"I believe that people elected me because they believe that I am someone of true integrity, true eompassion, adn someone with the courage to lead. They trust me to listen with an open mind and make tough decisions ontheir part."

"On a personal note, I have lived together with a women for 27 years."

"In all aspects, our marriage is the same as yours with all its trials, all its tests, and all its vicctories."

"Yet our mortgage describes us as joint tenants."

Despite all I have achieved, "I am still not seen as equal in the eyes." "A green vote means that you do see me as equal in our civil society."

"I am asking you to lead in a society against a tide of discrimination."

"The progress that this country has been made because of its elected leaders being so willing to take risks. See me know me. Vote green!"


Luke Clippinger Speaking

"Over these 8 weeks in Annapolis, I have heard so many things that are painful to me. I have heard it would redefine religious marriage. I am a Presbyterian. I'm an elder in my church. If this bill passes, I can't get married there because it is against my churches teachings. This bill does not impact religious marriage."

"I hav heard that this bill will lead to children being taught immoral things. I was raised by my parents and I hope that one day I can raise my children only half as well as they raised me. . . helping me achieve what I've achieved. This bill will not result in children being taught to be amoral. This bill will not result in the destruction of the way we raise our children. It only supports it."

"I have heard that somehow I am less than natural. That I somehow am less than human. That I am less than.

I am here today to proclaim to this house that I am not less than.

I am a child of God just like all of you are children of God.

I am not less than.

I am a altimorean. I am a child of Charles Carroll, Frederick Doglas, Harriet Tubman, and Nancy Pelosi. I am not less than."

"I am a prosecutor. I am not less than."

"Today I ask you for your vote to make me a full citizen of this state."


Heather Mizeur is Speaking

"When I was an 8 year old kid, I knew my Catholic faith was important to me. . . and I also knew I was gay."

"In the complex web of my humanity, I was all of those things. It was only going to be my relationship with God woulld allow me to reconcile these things. I prayed for it--especially the gay part--to go away. When I got to college, I realized that never once in my conversations with God did he tell me it was wrong. It wwas always people external to me telling me it was wrong. And I knew it to be something different."

"The most important teaching of my particular faith: the love that is in our hearts that comes from our discernment and prayer, that is the primary source of our wisdom and our actions. "

"You are made in my image. Be not afraid. Love one another as I have loved you. Do unto others as you would have them do to you."

"And empowered by that message, I set out to do God's will."

"Every day I hold up my hands and say these are God's hands. Let me do your will. I do that will through my work and also through my marriage. Doing God's will is best when you have a soulmate. Thankfully, God saw fit to send me my soulmate. Deborah I were married before our family and friends and our G-d. That's what marriage is. It's just a vow to love each other, to be with each other in good times and bad." "It's love that makes aa family but it's marriage that protects it."

"425 rights and protections come with a marriage licence." Discussing medical decisions in a hospital, riding in an ambulance and other very personal matters. That's all we're askingis to protect our relationships and our commitment."

"Even if this bill doesn't pass, my wife and I will still be married whether you choose to protect us from tragedy."

"You can't stop us from loving each other. You can't stop us from pledging our love in from of God and each other. All you can do is make it worse for us in challenging times when life throws you curve balls."

"What we're asking for is equal protection under the law."

"Choose love."

"This week in the Ash Wednesday service in the Gospel of Matthew we were reminded that we are called to prayer in private and that will be our reward." The word for hypocrites will get their reward here on earth, those who work hard and pray privately will have their reward in heaven.

"I choose love, not just Deborah, but I love all of you. I love each and every one of you without regard to party, without regard to jurisdiction, without regard to any ugly or nasty things you may have said in the past, or today, or you will say in the future. I love you."

"But we have to love each other. God loves you. Examine your conscience. Cast your vote in favor of love. Let the people of God say Amen."


Debate Continues

Del. Healey (D-Prince George's) identifies herself as a pro-life Catholic. "As a legislator, I believe that I must vote that people are equal before the law." "Civil marriage is a legal institution not a religious institution." 'This bill has religious protections."

Delegate Kathleen Dumais is speaking passionately. "We have to act as leaders. There is no escapinga choice at times like these. We should strike a blow for freedom and equality, an act of tolerance." "We can at the same time keep the freedom of every religious association to keep its theology, its freedom, and its values."

Senators Borchin adn Raskin are watching the debate together.

Del. Dumais is discussing Loving v. Virginia. "We need to pass this bill."


Del. Mary Washington is Speaking

"The bridge that is offered by civil unions is a bridge that takes us nowhere. There was no bridge out of slavery."

"Rights are indeed conferred by legislative bodies--such as the Voting Rights Act."

"I am proud that people across the world in movements of people that are oppressed take our experience as motivation and inspiration. That's something we should be proud of. The rights of LGBT to marry takes nothing away from others. Takes nothing away from my colleague's grandfather" (i.e. what he accomplished).

"This is not about same-sex marriage. This about everyone being equal to marry."

"For those of you who cannot accept that civil marriage is a civil right or the analogies to the fight against miscegenation laws, I respectfully disagree."

"There are many of you who are against this legislation but have sponsored legislation to extend protections to other Marylanders discriminated under the law." "I am asking you as a black American, as a women, as a same-gender living person who is here and not going here. We've been invisible, especially our African-American community, especially because of the bias against our community."

"Today is an opportunity to build us up and to build new allies. Or you can stand with the people in this body who have voted against more funding more your schools." "I am asking you to stand with the seven of us because we we believe it is the job of everyone in this body to stand for civil rights."

"You can know you're doing the right thing by the people you're around."

"Please stand with us.'


Debate Continues

Delegate attacking Del. Kaiser for breaking decorum in attacking her colleagues in a total mis-characterization of her brave and personal speech. Now attacking the House for rejecting the civil unions amendment. Now attacking the Speaker for rejecting the amendment on a voice vote. "If this is taken to the voters, it will be defeated. I urge my colleagues to look at civil unions. But it is not to be heard in this House today."

Del. Justin Ross (I think) rises "in proud support of the legislation today." "I have been convinced by all these people in my life that their family should have the same protections as my own family that I hold so dear." "If it is costing my election, then I am proud to have supported such an important piece of legislation is going down."

African-American Delegate from Prince-George's now speaking. "You should be able to love whoever you choose to love. I rise to tell you that I am voting against this bill based on fundamental principles." He wants a referendum and more religious protections. Odd that opponents all claim that this would go to referendum but now use that as a reason for voting against it. "I cannot vote against my base." "Many of us have said we're fully behind civil unions."

Delegate from Baltimore County has a question for floor leader Kathleen Dumais. Now he is speaking in support of this bill. (I think it is Del. carding." "We have to figure out a way to treat them the way we would want to be treated ourselves."


Anne Kaiser Speaking Now

"It's a vote for love and against fear."

"throughout this marriage equality debate, I've asked people to share a single legal reason to oppose marriage equality. I have yet to hear a single one."

"Some have gone so far as to suggest that this bill will allow people to people marry a toaster or my cat. It's unbeliavably offensive.

We want something very simple. My girlfriend and I want to be married. We want all the rights and responsibilities. And we want to get married in Maryland. And I want to get married in my parents' lifetime."

"My mother did what so many mothers do when I told her I was gay. She cried, and then she told me loved me, and then she told me she loved me again, and then she made me lunch."

"I deserve to marry the person I love."

"I come from a family that values marriage. My mother does not understand how my marrying my girlfriend would undermine their marriage. My parents have been married for over 50 years. My grandpoarents were married for over 67 years."

"This is a deeply important and personal vote. We have the power to assure equality to thousands of Marylanders. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the country that Maryland stands for equality. We have the chance to endorse love."

"I cast my vote for all members who stand for equality. What would be so horribly detrimental if the ladies and gentlemen from Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Charles County coudl marry their partners?"


Marriage Equality Debate Continues. . .

Delegate from Prince George's is speaking (I think it is Aisha Braveboy) She thinks that this will ultimately be decided in the court and then laws catch up. That's the way it works. The voters should have the right to weigh in.

An incoherent speech. Is she aware that the courts rejected a legal challenge? Does she think her rights should be up for a vote by the people?

12:37pm: Delegate from Baltimore City (Del. Glenn, I think) is offering an amendment changes the bill to say civil unions but "still provides the benefits that many are trying to provide to same-sex couples." She cannot go against her faith and support same-sex marriage.

Del. Dumais speaking against the amendment. Doctrines of religious marriage should not be the same as what the state recognizes as a civil marriage. Civil unions are not equal. We tried separate but equal before but it didn't work. Calling something different for a separate group of people isn't right and hasn't worked in New Jersey. Their bipartisan commission said that civil unions aren't working. They have to constantly explain what it means.

Delegate from Carroll County is asking Del. Dumais if it was offered in committee.

Delegate from Anne Arundel asking a question of the sponsor, Del. Glenn if this amednment woudl apply to men and women as well as same-sex couples. He argues that this amendment will work. "A marriage is a civil union."

Majority Leader Kumar Barve speaking out against the amendment. "If I had a choice of being in a civil union or married, I would choose marriage. Civil unions are different and dont' convey all the rights of marriage."

Speaker declares nays have it on voice vote


Marriage Equality Debate Continues

Del. Kathleen Dumais is asking body to reject a proposed amendment. The amendment was rejected by voice vote.

Del. Niemann (D-Prince George's) is speaking now about his daughter and how he would like her to be able to marry herr partner. "That's nto undermining marriage, that's standing up for it." Now, he is quoting the Declaration in support: "They are endowed by their Creator certain unaliienable rights." marriage is the same support he has had from his wife for 30 years and he would like his daughter to have. We have a long history of expanding rights to give real meaning to the Founders' idea that "ALL people are created equal." Lots of people said that the civil rights movement was against the Lord's will at the time too.

Del. Niemann is quoting Loving v. Virginia--the anti-miscegination (sp?) case that struck down laws banning interracial marriage, incuding Maryland's laws. Many people were outraged at the time because the decision "overturned the will of the people." Lots of gay people have been beaten for who they are. "The issue before us is a fundamental truth that has motivated our country for over 200 years." The meaning of equality can't be defined by the majority.

"Separate is not equal because it doesn't carry with it the dignity or the respect."

"When people look back are they going to say that you stood for equality, or did you take a walk?"


House Continues Marriage Equality Debate in Afternoon

12:10pm: Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles) gently corrects a previous speaker who said that there are six openly gay and lesbian legislators. "There are seven." Del. Murphy received a standing ovation from his colleagues and the galleries.

12:12pm Del. from Anne Arundel talking about economic costs and benefits and "why we subsidize traditional marriage: procreation." "Other relationships be it two elderly sisters, a same-sex couple, or three college professors living together, those relationships are no business of the State and don't benefit society broadly and therefore don't warrant subsidization by the State."

Who knew that marriage was about fiscal policy? Talk about defining it down!

12:17 Del. Kieffer Mitchell: "This issue pains me because it has divided this body and some relationships this entire week. My commitment to this body after it's all said and done iss that I will do everything in my power to bring us all back together."

"there has been a lot of debate about it being a civil rights issue." "I do know that he [Clarence Mitchell] knew that all Americans should be treated equally under the law." "There is no way I would compare this to the Civil Rights Movement but it is a civil rights issue. When we as a State deny people equal protection under the law, it is a civil rights issue."

"John Lewis said: 'we are now at such a crossroads over the right of same-sex couples to marry. Their exclusion officially degrades them and denies them the right to marry the person they love and denies numerous legal protections for families. Our rights of Americans do not depend on the approval of others. . . "

Now Kieffer is quoting Julian Bond who urged the General Assembly to pass the bill and sees it as a matter of "civil rights and equal treatment before the law."

"I stand here in clear conscience, mind, and heart that this is the right thing to do for our seven colleagues and that theis the right thing to do for all of us, for Marylanders and for Americans."

"I'm going to vote yes for Lisa and Gita, for my neighbors Dan and Bill, for our colleagues, for the unseen generations who will say what was all the fuss about? I vote green."


Marriage Equality Debate Continues

12:00pm Delegates look bored waiting for Del. Burns to wind up with many of the ones I see starting to surf on their computers or doing other work and Speaker Busch is resting his cheek in his hand. Burns: "Show me those who had their homes invaded by the KKK and had their homes invaded and churches burned down." before comparing the fight for same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement. Obviously, he has never heard of Matthew Shepherd among numerous others. I guess he also doesn't think that Bayard Rustin was really his equal either.

Unlike African Americans, Del. Burns is now arguing that gays and lesbians can disguise who they are. Now, he is talking about the "homosexual" lifestyle and calling it a "sterile union" and invoking fears that children will be taught that gays and lesbians are equal to others. "This should not be thrust on our children."

12:07 Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk talking about how civil right leader Gwendolyn Britt was the lead sponsor of this bill before she passed and the quality of the person that Sen. Britt was. "I promised myself that I would live and be like her" when she died. Sen. Britt was a lead plaintiff in a civil rights suit that went ot he Supreme Court, she was arrested for integrating Glen Echol Park, she was a Freedom Rider, and was in jail for 40 days in Jackson, Mississippi.

"I am a person of color. Prior to the Civil War, I could not have voted and prior to 1967, I could not have married my husband because interracial couples were not permitted to marry."

President JFK said "When we grant rights to others which belong to them, we extend rights for ourselves."


Marriage Equality Debate

11:40 The House of Delegates has just taken up the Senate version of the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

An opponent is arguing that homosexuality is just as likely as product of nurture as of nature. There is no "gay gene." Same-sex love is "imaginary" love driven by neurotransmitters. Watching Dels. McIntosh and Rosenberg's faces--priceless. He fears that culture will teach it and schools will teach it if this bill passes. But he says there is no hate behind his views.

Del. Ben Barnes (D-Prince George's): "you don't have to have been discriminated against to understand injustice." "when our colleagues come before us and tell me about the inequities in our laws, I see them too. Injustice is injustice. We have a duty in this chamber to stamp it out." "This discrimination is immoral and unconstitutional."

"some can say that this bill doesn't affect me one way or the other but it does affect me because it's about what kind of nation and people we want to be."

"Do we really want to be a nation that says that the kids of same-sex couples are not as good as other kids?"

11:49 Del. Burns (D-Baltimore County): "There is a cancer growing on the political process here. I had hoped from the very beginning that this legislature would come to the point where is would not discuss legalizing homosexuality." "I am unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage but we must remain collegial."

Now he is quoting the Declaration of Independence and arguing that one cannot juxtapose civil rights with gay and lesbian rights in a way I can't follow.


Live from the House of Delegates Session

11:30 The House is now doing a quorum call. 138 delegates plus the speaker are here.

11:32 The House is quickly passing on third reading a number of bills.

11:35 I think Del. Aruna Miller just passed her first bill based on the applause. Congratulations! Del. car's bill on access to public records also just passed. Kudos, Al!

11:38 Del. Shane Robinson just passed his first bill. :)


Live from the General Assembly

I'm sitting in the gallery in the House of Delegates waiting for the session to start. The bells for the Senate have been ringing for over five minutes. Not a single delegate is in the House. I think that the Democratic Caucus has yet to meet today. I'm sitting with Chuck Butler and Rosemary Nicolosi from the Equality Maryland Board. In the row behind me is Barrie Carr--De. Al Carr's wife and a wonderful friend who I am glad is here today.

Update at 11:22: the delegates are entering the chamber. Reports say that the Judiciary Committee has voted down a last minute attempt to amend the marriage equality bill.

Update at 11:25 Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk just led the House in prayer. She said the serenity prayer. Session is now beginnning.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Did the Delegates Vote? Part Four

This is part four (and the final post) in a series about how delegates voted yesterday on amendments to the marriage equality bill. See the first post for information about the content of the amendments. This post looks at how Democrats from Baltimore County and Baltimore City voted.

Baltimore City
Fourteen of the 18 delegates voted nay on all amendments. Del. Rosenberg (41) voted nay on all amendments except he didn't vote on the Braveboy referendum amendment. Del. Conaway (40) voted nay on three of the amendments except that he voted yea on the Braveboy amendment. Del. Carter (41) voted nay on two amendments, yea on the Braveboy amendment, and didn't vote on the Serafini amendment to change the title of the bill. Del. Oaks (41) voted yea on the Braveboy and Serafini amendments; he voted nay on the
Afzali amendment on teaching about homosexuality and the Donoghue amendment about the rights of adoption agencies to discriminate.

Baltimore County
Six of the 13 Baltimore County Democrats voted against all four amendments: Dels. Jones (10), Nathan-Pulliam (10), Cardin (11), Morhaim (11), Stein (11), and Lafferty (42). Three voted for all four amendments: Dels. Minnick (6), Weir (6), and Burns (10).

Del. Olszewski (6) voted for the Afzali and Donoghue amendments about the rights of adoption agencies to discriminate but against the Braveboy and Serafini amendments. Del. DeBoy (12A) voted nay on the Afzali and Braveboy amendments, and yea on the Donoghue and Serafini amendments.

Del. Bromwell (8) voted against three of the amendments but for the Donoghue amendment. Del. Malone (12A) also voted against three of the amendments but didn't vote on the Braveboy amendment.


Guled Kassim's New Progressive Radio Show

From the press release:

"It is about time!" is how one local elected official responded to the news that Guled will begin a progressive talk show.

Starting on March 14, 2011, Guled Kassim will join CBS Radio’s Big Talker 1580 to bring a balance to the flood of right wing talk on the radio!

Those that know Guled Kassim, know him as a Real Estate professional, active Democrat, former US Marine, and an immigrant.

Moreover, what will give the show legs will be the diverse list of contacts of University professors, community activists, community leaders, and elected officials as guests.

As one of a few radio talk shows in the area that will not be presenting right-wing content and prospective, it will give the broader community a platform for informative and engaging discussions.

The show’s various segments will cover opinions and analysis in discussing current issues and politics in DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. In addition, the “Metro Biztalk” segment will cover economic issues specific to this area.

Start each week off in balance with Guled on “Kassim’s Corner”, Monday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00 starting March 14, 2011 on the Big Talker 1580am. On Monday we are going to start the show off strong with the Majority Leader of the Maryland State House, Del. Kumar Barve and Mr. Darrell Carrington to discuss the pertinent issues in Annapolis.

For comments, topics, and guest scheduling contact Guled Kassim at (202) 681-1455 or


How Did the Delegates Vote? Part Three

This is part three in a series of posts about how delegates voted yesterday on amendments to the marriage equality bill. See the first post for information about the content of the amendments. This post looks at how Democrats from counties other than the four most populous (Montgomery, Prince George's, Baltimore City and County) voted.

Dels. Kelly (1B, Allegany) and Donoghue (2C, Washington), the only Democrats from Western Maryland, voted for all the amendments. Del. James (34A, Harford), the only Democrat from Harford, voted for all of the amendments

Southern Maryland Democrats tended to oppose the amendments. Dels. Jameson (28, Charles), and Murphy (28, Charles) voted against all of them. Dels. Wilson (28, Charles), and Bohanan (St. Mary's) voted against three of the amendments but for the convoluted Braveboy referendum amendment. However, Del. Wood (29A, Charles and St. Mary's) voted for all of the amendments.

Eastern Shore Democrats--Rudolph (34B), Cane (37B), and Conway (38B), voted against three of the amendments but Rudolph and Conway voted for the Braveboy amendment and Cane didn't vote on the Braveboy amendment.

Howard Democrats--Bobo (12B), Pendergrass (13), Guzzone (13), and F. Turner (13)--voted against all of the amendments except that Del. Pendergrass didn't vote on the Donoghue amendment on adoptions.

Anne Arundel Democrats went different ways. Speaker Busch (30), and Del. Love (32) voted against all four amendments. Del. Beidle (32) voted against three of the amendments but for the Braveboy amendment. Del. Sophocleus (32) voted for three of the amendments but didn't vote on the Serafini amendment to retitle the bill.


How did the Delegates Vote? Part Two

This is part two in a series of posts about how delegates voted yesterday on amendments to the marriage equality bill. See the previous post for information about the content of the amendments. This post looks at how delegates from Prince George's--all Democrats--voted.

Fifteen delegates voted against all amendments: Barnes (21), Frush (21), Pena-Melnyk (21), Gaines (22), Healey (22), Ross (22), Hubbard (23), Holmes (23), Davis (25), Turner (26), Valderrama (26), Proctor (27A), Vallario (27A), Niemann (47), and Ivey (47).

Del. Griffith (25) voted against all of the amendments except he didn't vote on the Braveboy referendum amendment.

Del. Valentino-Smith (23) and Walker (26) voted for three of the amendments but against the Serafini amendment to change the title of the bill.

Del. Alston (24) voted for three of the amendments but against the Afzali amendment banning the teaching of "homosexuality" in schools.

Del. Howard (24) voted against two of the amendments but didn't cast votes on the Braveboy referendum amendment and the Serafini bill title amendment.

Dels. Braveboy (25) and Vaughn (24) had the same unique voting pattern. They both voted for the Braveboy and Serafini amendments, didn't vote on the Donoghue amendment to permit discrimination against same-sex couples in adoption, and against Afzali amendment on teaching about "homosexuality" in schools.

Del. Summers (47) was excused from voting for the day.


How Did the Delegates Vote? Part One

Over the course of today, I am going to try to present some information about how delegates voted on the amendments to the marriage equality bill yesterday.

Four amendments came up for roll-call votes in the House of Delegates; all failed. Del. Donoghue's (D-Washington) amendment would have allowed adoption agencies to turn down adoptions by same sex couples without legal recourse; it failed 58-79. Del. Afzali's (R-Frederick) amendment would have given teachers the authority to not teach about "homosexuality" in public school curricula; it lost 54-86. Del. Serafini's (R-Washington) would have changed the title from Civil Marriage Protection Act to the Same-Sex Marriage Act; it went down 52-85. Del. Braveboy's (D-Prince George's) amendment would have required through a convoluted process contingent on the passage of a separate constitutional amendment that the bill go up for a referendum; it failed 63-72.

This first post covers delegates from Montgomery and Republicans--two groups of delegates that voted overwhelmingly as blocs against and for the amendments, respectively, with very few exceptions.

All 24 delegates from Montgomery County are Democrats. All voted against all four amendments with the exception of Del. Sam Arora (D-19) who voted for the Donoghue amendment on adoption by same-sex couples.

Among the 43 Republican delegates, all voted for all four amendments with the except of three delegates who voted against the Serafini amendment to change the title of the bill: Del. Robert Costa (R-33B, Anne Arundel), Del. Patrick Hogan (R-3A, Frederick), and Del. Nicholaus Kipke (R-31, Anne Arundel).


Bonita Spikes Speaks Out for Her Child

Reproduced below is her amazing testimony on behalf of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination bill at the hearing held yesterday

Chairman Hammen and Committee members, I thank you for allowing me to come here to ask for your support for House Bill 235 – Gender Identity and Gender Expression Anti-Discrimination.

My husband and I knew very early on that our youngest child was uniquely different. Michael, as he was known growing up, told my husband and me that he felt he was trapped in the wrong body ever since he could remember. We loved him and tried to be understanding. As he approached early teens he stated he wanted to dress as a female. I knew nothing about what it meant to be transgender, but I sought out information and did my best to educate myself.

My child, who now goes by Michelle, is a transgender woman. Michelle is one of the nicest, most patient, most kind people I have ever known. As a young person, she volunteered at the nursing home hospice center, where I was nursing, and at the humane society. She still volunteers for different social justice causes. Everyone who gets to know my child loves my child -- teachers, friends, family members, neighbors. But that does not make my child immune to unwarranted prejudice and discrimination from those who would judge her just because of her gender identity.

In 2000, my child was hit on the head with a metal pipe and left for dead simply for being different. There was a scary period in intensive care, a brain injury, and amnesia after the fact. Michelle still has a few neurological issues. But thank God she is alive. She can't understand why someone who doesn’t know her would wish her dead.

Frankly I don't know why in this America where we place our hands over our hearts and pledge to work for “liberty and justice for all,” we still have not created the most minimal of legal protections for citizens who are so disproportionately subject to discrimination and violence simply because of how they look!

I want you to think long and hard on the facts I have shared today. Think about how you might feel if it were your child. Wouldn't you would want to make sure your daughter could make it in the world and be able to find a job? That she could acquire meaningful and well-paying work based on her ability ? Would you want your daughter to be denied a place to live regardless of her ability to pay?

My child hasn’t had it easy in this world. I am not asking you approve of my child, understand my child, or celebrate my child. All I am asking is for you to make a public policy decision that discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of one’s gender identity is wrong and should be illegal. Please, I urge you to make Maryland a place that is safe and fair for the citizens who need these protections. These citizens are our brothers and sisters – these citizens are our children. I urge you to vote for a favorable report of House Bill 235.

Mrs. Bonnita Spikes


Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo Supports Marriage Equality

The Baltimore Sun has more information and the Huffington Post has his op-ed piece on the topic.


AG Doug Gansler's Actions on Civil Rights

As my second term as Attorney General gets underway, I would like to take a moment to let you know about some of the work our Office is doing to serve the people of Maryland and protect the State’s resources.

In this term, we renew our focus on our top four priorities: protecting the environment, strengthening public safety, defending consumers, and advancing civil rights. Today I would like to share a few updates on our efforts to advance civil rights in Maryland.

To begin, we created the first-ever Director of Civil Rights position within the Office, devoted entirely to addressing infringements on people’s rights and liberty. While much of our time is spent tackling individual claims, we also set up a Task Force on Voting Irregularities to study and solve voter suppression problems in Maryland; and I am happy to report that the long lines, some hundreds of people deep waiting for hours, at polling locations such as Evangel Cathedral in Prince George’s County in 2006, were nowhere to be found in 2010. We also created a Working Group on Lending Practices to reform sub-prime and predatory lending practices; and we vigorously pursued those who preyed on the victims of the mortgage crisis with phony mortgage relief programs such as the $70 million ponzi scheme of Metropolitan Dream Homes.

Additionally, our Office issued two groundbreaking reports and one legal opinion that received national attention. The first report offered Maryland’s institutions of higher learning guidance on how to bridge the minority achievement gap through legally permissible practices aimed at minority recruitment, retention, financial aid, programming, and faculty diversity that increase minority enrollment and graduation rates. Our Task Force on Electronic Weapons then issued a report that provided guidance on training and protocols that will be used nationally by law enforcement personnel to improve the safe and effective use of tasers. And, finally, our 46-page opinion outlining the State’s legal obligation to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions appears to have brought us one step closer to providing to all citizens of Maryland what the Supreme Court has called one of our most basic civil rights, the right to marry.

As we move forward with the second term, our Office is seeking to tackle a new set of civil rights issues. Chief among these is the issue of diversity on the judicial bench. Maryland has the fourth highest percentage of African Americans and the sixth highest percentage of minorities overall of any state in the United States, yet no minority has ever been elected to the trial court anywhere in Southern Maryland, Western Maryland or the Eastern Shore. This dearth of minorities on the circuit court bench appears to be attributable in large part to contested elections.

Our Office has been at the forefront of the fight to convert circuit court elections into retention elections. Used for our state appeals court elections for over 30 years, retention elections allow voters to hold appointed judges accountable via election – ensuring and enhancingvoter enfranchisement – while eliminating heated contests that expose judges to racial bias and subject them to the influence of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and partisan politics.

The influence of money in elections strikes at the core of another major civil rights issue: the need for fair, open, and accountable elections. Elections are fairest when their outcomes reflect the full spectrum of voices of the electorate, but money can skew the results to reflect only a handful of powerful interests. In Maryland, loopholes and other weaknesses facilitate the undue influence of money in the State’s campaign finance laws, many of which can be fixed by regulations or legislation.

To identify these points of weakness and construct thoughtful regulatory and legislative solutions, our Office convened a bipartisan Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance. The Advisory Committee studied our State’s campaign finance system and made 25 specific recommendations for improving transparency and accountability. The Committee’s work sparked broad discussion in the State legislature about the need for campaign finance reform, and several bills were introduced during the current legislative session that are modeled on its recommendations.

These are some examples of the work our Office is doing to advance civil rights. We will use the next four years to ensure that your rights are protected, speaking out in favor of expanded civil rights whenever we have the opportunity.

Thank you for supporting the efforts of our Office as we continue to fight for justice on behalf of the people of Maryland. Your confidence in our team inspires us to work hard on the issues that matter.


Douglas F. Gansler


Photo: Marriage Equality Opponent Don Dwyer Speaks to the Press

Del. Don Dwyer doing a media interview outside the Statehouse yesterday shortly after the marriage equality bill passed second reading


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

NOM Offers Campaign Cash for Votes

The National Organization for Marriage (read: organization against marriage equality) pledges to raise $1 million to defend any Democrat who votes against marriage equality. Oh, and Maggie Gallagher--NOM's talking head--says that the opinions of younger voters should not matter on this issue. No prizes for guessing which side they support. More info on NOM's website, Joe.My.God, and AMERICABlog.


Delegate Mary Washington Testifies

for the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill

Del. Washington's statement below the fold.

My name is Mary Washington, and I represent the 43rd Legislative District in Baltimore City. My district includes some of the best neighborhoods in Baltimore City, including Abell, Cedarcroft, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello, Ednor Gardens, Guilford, Homeland, Lauraville, Northwood, Radnor-Winston, Tuscany-Canterbury, Waverly, and Woodbourne Heights. Our communities are vibrant and diverse, and truly represent a cross-section of who we are as Marylanders. The 43rd district is home to a large population of individuals who would benefit from the protections afforded by House Bill 235. House Bill 235 would, among other things, ban discrimination in employment and housing based on a person's gender identity. The bill also bans discrimination based on gender identity by entities regulated by the Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, which effectively bans discrimination in the extension of credit, including mortgages and car loans. These protections would afford some of the most vulnerable members of our society to obtain a measure of much-needed protection, protections that can sometimes mean the difference between employment and poverty, or shelter and homelessness.

Maryland's laws against discrimination are intended to promote the fundamental values that underlie our political system - including personal liberty, tolerance of diverse backgrounds and points of view, and respect for privacy. Above all else, our anti-discrimination laws should serve to protect members of minority groups most marginalized in our society. We should extend that protection to individuals whether the defining factors of the minority group are race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious or political beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It's way past time for Maryland to extend these protections to transgendered Marylanders.

Discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals persists, and the necessity for explicit legal protection is imperative. Promisingly, lawyers and advocates for civil rights have argued that a broad interpretation of existing federal and state laws prohibits discrimination based on gender identity - and the courts have ruled favorably in some cases. Indeed, Title VII - the federal law that bans workplace discrimination - already prohibits some forms of sex-stereotyping against gender non-conforming individuals. However, bad actors seeking to defend discriminatory acts repeatedly challenge these holdings in court. The court rulings protecting transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from insidious discrimination are not certain or guaranteed, and Marylanders should not have to rely on a gamble in the courts as their only recourse in the face of discrimination. For this reason, we must make the law clearly state that Maryland bans discrimination based on gender identity.

I cannot understate the real-life implications for Marylanders. Every year, qualified, hard-working Marylanders lose job opportunities, face termination, or experience on-the-job discrimination merely because of their gender identity. Like all Marylanders, transgender people need to work to support themselves and their families. Discrimination based on gender identity occurs across a range of types of workplaces, all over Maryland. Workplace discrimination threatens the well-being and economic survival of these workers and their families. Like other workers, transgender workers deserve to be judged on their skills and qualifications, and on their work and its merit, not on their gender identity, which is wholly unrelated to job performance.

In addition to guaranteeing a level playing field in employment, House Bill 235 would ensure that housing opportunities are made available to all, based solely on the ability to pay and other nondiscriminatory factors. Others will testify about the difficulties faced by transgender individuals in their quest to secure adequate housing. It is well-documented that transgender individuals are shown less desirable properties when they attempt to rent or buy, are quoted higher prices than non-transgendered individuals, receive less favorable customer service, or encounter outright refusal to sell or rent properties. We have heard many anecdotes in which people suffered verbal harassment from landlords, realtors, and lenders based solely on their gender identity. This is not the Maryland way, and it needs to end.

Finally, House Bill 235 would require mortgage lenders and other originators of credit licensed by the Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to not discriminate in the extension of credit based on gender identity. This is a significant protection for transgendered Marylanders, as often they will have varying forms of identification that will include different gender markers, depending on how they might identify. House Bill 235 would require lenders to work through these issues and extend credit on the basis of characteristics relating solely to the borrower's creditworthiness, not related to their gender identity.

I know that some members of our community are not happy that this legislation does not include protections against discrimination in the accessing of public accommodations. I share this displeasure. However, I commit to working in future sessions to advance legislation to ban gender identity discrimination in public accommodations.

Every single day, transgender people are fired for being who they are, even when they have excellent work records and skills. As a result, their families struggle and often fail to make ends meet, people lose their homes, and careers end, all because someone's supervisor decided that it was okay to discriminate. People are denied housing or access to credit, based solely on their gender identity. That is not the Maryland way. This legislation is absolutely needed to make it clear that discrimination is never acceptable. Please vote in favor of House Bill 235.


Anti-Gas Tax Protestors Outside the Statehouse

Outside the Statehouse shortly after the House adjourned for the day


Owen Smith's Testimony for the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill

My name is Owen Smith and I currently live in Baltimore, Maryland.

I want to share a staggering statistic for you - according to a recent study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1 in 5 transgender people are fired from their jobs because of their gender identity and presentation, not because of their ability to perform on the job. Of those that lost their jobs, 12 percent became homeless.

Those numbers are hard to grasp, until you realize that I fulfill both number. I am the one that was fired. I am the one that became homeless. How did I get there?

As a transgender person I was applying for jobs because I wanted to be an EMT. I was certified and excited about the possibility that I could help people daily. I went to interview after interview without ever getting a call back. I'd send in my resume, and they'd call me to schedule an interview, excited that they had someone of my caliber apply for the position, only to take one look at me and cringe. I didn't fit the person on paper. I was never hired.

As a result of not being able to find a job and be hired because of my gender identity, I was kicked out of my apartment for not being able to afford my monthly rent. Without a job, how was I supposed to be able to afford my rent? I was forced to live out of my car and sometimes I was able to sleep on my friend's couches.

I used to bathe myself out of a bar sink - a job that I eventually found where I was able to work only part-time. Not only was hygiene an issue for my but finding food also became a challenge because I was transgender. Because I lived way below the poverty line, I lived for the generic fast food value menu, finding whatever food I could afford to eat.

This is no way to live.

I finally found full-time employment at a local cafe in Baltimore, but I can't say that all my problems were solved. Discrimination because of my gender identity started right away. One of the owners refused to call me by my name, Owen. He only would refer to me in a horribly as a he/she. When I wasn't being insulted to my face by my boss, the owner would say derogatory statements within ear-shot of me and loud enough for the customers to hear that I wasn't "man enough" for certain tasks, like lifting over 200 pounds. Finally, I worked up enough courage to stand up for myself, he attacked me physically and I was violently pushed up against a refrigerator.

To me, and to many more transgender Marylanders, HB235 does truly mean life or death. Please pass HB235 and save the lives of transgender Marylanders - today.

Thank you.


Hans Riemer on Political Pulse

At-Large Montgomery County Council Member Hans Riemer will be on the "Political Pulse" TV Show in MoCo on Thurs, March 10th, at 9:00 p.m. and Fri-Sun, March 11th-13th, at 6:00 p.m. Topics include: the County's budget deficit, development and problems with Pepco. Political Pulse is on Channel 16 TV in Montgomery County, MD


MoCo Takes on Hoarding

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 8, 2011—The Montgomery County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee and its Public Safety Committee will meet jointly at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 10, for a worksession with the County’s Task Force of Hoarding Behavior. The task force was established in 2009 to raise public awareness and develop hoarding prevention strategies by assisting county residents who are among the 2 to 5 percent nationally afflicted with this unusual condition.

The Health and Human Services Committee, which is chaired by George Leventhal and includes Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice, and the Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Phil Andrews and includes Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich, will meet in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live on Cable County Montgomery (CCM—cable channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon).

According to the Task Force of Hoarding Behavior’s report, “Hoarding is the acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions in a residence which appear to be useless or of limited value.”

Such behavior has been associated with several psychiatric disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and various personality disorders. Hoarding also has been differentiated as its own distinct cluster of behaviors. Signs and symptoms of the condition are known to pose serious health and safety risks, especially in the private home, and can lead to a number of violations for walkway blockages, infestations, house damaging and fire hazards.

The report quotes Gail S. Steketee, co-author of the study “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” as saying 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population suffers “from extensive collecting and clutter.” Based on those figures, the task force report estimates that of Montgomery County’s population of approximately 971,600, about 20,000 to 50,000 residents may potentially be identified as hoarders.

“Hoarding threatens the well-being of entire neighborhoods, as well as the individual hoarder, and we need to develop strategies for helping these persons at the onset of hoarding behaviors,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “Even more important is spreading awareness of hoarding to curtail the behavior before it ever starts, since it largely occurs in private and is often discovered when it is too late.”

Throughout 2009-10, smaller workgroups of the Task Force of Hoarding Behavior developed strategic work tools, some of which the County government currently utilizes. These work tools provide general information to the public and allow for numerous agencies and members of the community to locate points of contact when exposed to hoarding situations.

A subgroup of the task force identified the following major signs of hoarding:

* Blocked access or exit to any door or window due to clutter
* Clutter that impedes or prevents movement in and around residence (narrowing of hallways, portions of rooms blocked off)
* Clutter that prevents any part of the inside or outside of dwelling to be used for its intended purpose
* Trash and garbage inside or outside residence (not in designated receptacles)
* Signs of rodent/insect infestation or factors associated with health concerns that could have an impact on resident or neighbors
* Visible damage to stairs, ceilings, floors or walls
* A large number of animals that are not being cared for and cause a health risk for the occupants, neighbors and/or general public
* Kitchen appliances and/or bathroom fixtures that are not functional and/or accessible
* Combustible materials stored too close to a source that could ignite it i.e. stove, over heater vents, portable electric heaters, furnace, gas cans, fireplaces
* Absence of working smoke detectors
* Gas cans or other noxious materials, stored in a residence, of which the fumes become a potential health hazard
* Absence of running water, heat and/or electricity

The consistently changing demographics of the local community affect the number of mental health issues and the physical and emotional concerns. As the population of 65-and-older increases, the accounts of these issues increase as well.

The main goals of the task force include organizing public/private responses to hoarding cases, raising public awareness, coalition building with other agencies and establishing a four-point Hoarding Awareness/Intervention Program that consists of awareness, identification, proactive assistance and follow-up/monitoring methods.

“Extreme hoarding behavior can also endanger the safety and health of neighbors because of increased risk of fire and rodents,” said Councilmember Andrews. “That is why hoarding could affect more than just the individual with the behavior.”


House Debating Referendum Amendment

Opponents of marriage equality are saying put it to the people yet many of the same legislators advocating for the amendment proposed by Aisha Braveboy opposed a slots referendum because "we were sent here to decide these issues," as Kirill Reznik just pointed out. In any case, while voters can petition a law to referendum, there is no constitutional provision allowing the General Assembly to put a law up for a vote on the ballot.

Update: Del. Ben Barnes is explaining that this amendment would kill the bill and any opportunity for the people to vote on it as it would send it back to committee and die. Majority Leader Kumar Barve is now saying that he opposes putting up rights to a plebiscite but that he has no doubt that it will end up on the ballot through the normal process.

Update: Amendment fails by 63-72 and that ends debate on marriage equality for the day. Kudos to Speaker Michael Busch for running a tight debate.


Delegate Comes Out on Eve of Marriage Vote

From the Washington Blade:

Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), a divorced father of two who also has two grandchildren, said his colleagues and family have known for years that he is gay.

“I have never denied [being gay],” Murphy said, “I just presumed people knew.”

Murphy’s announcement brings to eight the total number of openly gay and lesbian members of Maryland’s legislature, the most of any state in the country. There is one openly gay state senator — Rich Madaleno — and now seven members of the House of Delegates.

Murphy said he’s confident the marriage equality bill will pass later this week, possibly in a final vote on Friday.

“As I have said all along, I think it’s a strong civil rights bill,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a fair bill because it also addresses the religious issue and doesn’t require any religious organization to practice something that goes against their teachings.”

Murphy represents a conservative part of the state, but said he’s not concerned about any backlash in making his sexual orientation public in the media.

“I’m not concerned,” he said. “People who know me know that I represent everyone in the district. I work hard to make sure that everyone has a voice and an opportunity to be heard.”


Koch Brothers Boycott

Local activist Susan Heltemes asked me to pass along the following list of products produced by business entities affiliated with the Koch Brothers--their support for attacks on the rights of works to bargain collectively through union in Wisconsin has inspired a boycott.

Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins
Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes
All Georgia-Pacific lumber and building products, including:
Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
ToughArmor Gypsum board
Georgia Pacific Plytanium Plywood
Densglass sheathing
G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)
FibreStrong Rim board
G/P Lam board
Blue Ribbon OSB Rated Sheathing
Blue Ribbon Sub-floor
DryGuard Enhanced OSB
Nautilus Wall Sheathing
Thermostat OSB Radiant Barrier Sheathing
Broadspan Engineered Wood Products
XJ 85 I-Joists
FireDefender Banded Cores
FireDefender FS
FireDefender Mineral Core
Hardboard and Thin MDF including Auto Hardboard,


Pepco v. the Post

Pepco and the Washington Post have diametrically opposed views of the independent consultants' report. Pepco's press release characterizes their findings as "Independent Consultants Find Pepco's Electrical Distribution System Well Designed" while the Washington Post declares "Pepco reliability plan 'cobbled together' without detailed study."

More from the Washington Post:

The consultants concluded that Pepco's reliability fell in 2004, after the company failed to increase efforts to improve its distribution system following 2003's Hurricane Isabel.

"Normally one would expect a utility to spend more on preventative maintenance after such an event to counteract the increased risk of outages caused by hurricane damage," the consultants said in their 136-page report, which was filed last week. "Pepco, however, responded with insufficient preventative maintenance. . . . Not surprisingly, conditions on the system continued to deteriorate."

The report said that Pepco's spending on tree trimming and other vegetation management has been "inadequate" and that the company "routinely failed to meet its annual trimming goals." . . .

The consultants' nine-week investigation focused on outages related to four major storms in 2010. The report concluded that the factors that caused storm outages also played a major role in blue-sky outages, which come on days with no severe weather.

The report concluded that Pepco's vegetation management budgets in recent years "were never adequate enough to provide for the required level of [tree] trimming."

The report also said Maryland laws that restricted tree trimming raised the cost of maintenance. It concluded that if Pepco's more aggressive program were adequately funded, it would significantly improve reliability.

During field inspections, the consultants said, they found a number of problems that should have been identified during Pepco's routine examinations, including deteriorating power poles, broken guy wires and loose insulators. Some of the damage appeared to be storm-related.

"This is not surprising, as Pepco does not perform after-storm inspections or patrols to look for, for example, broken branches in overhanging trees that can easily come down in the next storm - faults waiting to happen," the report said.
and Pepco's press release:
Pepco agrees with many of the findings contained in the Report, and says the work that the company has underway is consistent with the findings.

Pepco Holdings Chairman, President, and CEO, Joseph Rigby, noted “Although the Commission’s independent consultants concluded that Pepco's physical storm restoration efforts were 'reasonably good', we recognize that further improvements, including improved communications with our customers will be critical to restoring confidence in the utility."

The Report concludes that Pepco’s distribution system infrastructure is sound, well designed and consistent with good utility practice. However, the Report also makes several key recommendations for system improvements, including increased vegetation management, the addition of advanced technologies that can help detect outages and restore power more quickly, and improved methods of estimating outage durations and communicating with customers.

Consistent with the consultants' recommendations, the Company looks forward to further developing the components of its comprehensive Six Point Reliability Enhancement Plan in order to achieve greater system reliability and customer satisfaction.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Opposed Not Just to Marriage Equality but to Gays and Lesbians

From the email inbox of a member of the House of Delegates:

Dear Delegates:

Others may be afraid to speak plainly to you, but I am not.

You all have psychological disorders.

Anyone who won't see the innate rightness of heterosexuality as opposed to any other kind of sexuality is, frankly, irrational.

Changing the laws won't change reality. The ex-gay truth, which isn't all that complicated, will prevail in the end. Even if the Supreme Court gets it wrong, as it probably will, the people will get it right.

Gay-egalitarianism is bullshit. Women are made to mate with men and men with women. Period. Feelings to the contrary ought to be dealt with in therapy. See and

Marylanders are especially fortunate to have a quality ex-gay clinic at their disposal, in Bowie, Prince George's County. See

Both political parties have been using you. Shame on them. I've taken their leaders to task and will continue to do so.

You really are on a fool's errand. GayScam will go down in history as a dark chapter.

--Sharon Kass
Silver Spring, Maryland
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


Raskin-Hixon Letter on Military Budget

The following letter has been signed by 40 members of the General Assembly and was the center of the Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home coalition's press conference in Annapolis yesterday. Progressives from around the State, including members of Progressive Maryland and Progressive Neighbors, lobbied their legislators on this and other issues.

“ Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
--President Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953

Dear Senators and Representatives:

We, the undersigned members of the Maryland General Assembly, urge you to do whatever you can to move tens of billions of dollars from the bloated Pentagon budget into the urgent national project of rebuilding our crumbling physical and social infrastructure at home.

The economic downturn has drained our state and local treasuries to dangerously low levels and is inflicting immense suffering on our people. In the context of this crisis, the current unprecedented level of military spending constitutes a shocking misallocation of national resources. We ask you as our colleagues and our leaders in Washington to press for a dramatic shift in federal budget priorities.

We can no longer afford the overgrown “military-industrial complex” which is dominating our politics and economics to an extent that would horrify President Eisenhower, the great general who coined the term when he warned 50 years ago this week in his Farewell Address that, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

As we struggle to balance Maryland’s budget and meet the sharp rise in human needs caused by the housing meltdown and stubborn unemployment, we ask you to focus on the following facts:

• The people of Maryland will pay (or go into further debt for) for more than $14.3 billion in 2011 as our contribution to the military budget , an amount matching our entire annual State budget for everything, including k-12 education, higher education, health care, public safety and environmental protection;

• The base Pentagon budget is expected to more than double (in constant dollars) between 1998 and this year when it will hit more than $708 billion, a figure that does not include an additional $25 billion for defense spending outside the Pentagon, such as spending on nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy . Amazingly, only 17% of this fantastic increase in the military budget is attributable to the costs of the trillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;

• Military expenditures can be reduced by at least one trillion dollars over the next decade, with no reduction in security to Americans and no harm to American troops, as shown in a bipartisan 2010 report commissioned by Rep. Barney Frank (between 1998 and 2011 D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) . These reductions can thus take place without diminishing in any way the nation’s unwavering and unified support for our brave servicemen and women in the field of combat, a support that we are proud to emphatically restate.

While we are spending more on the military establishment, giant defense contractors and Beltway Bandits than at any time since World War II, including during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold wars, we are badly neglecting basic needs at home:

• The employment situation remains desperate in many communities. Job creation is essential and urgent, in both the private and public sectors, and yet local and state governments are being forced to cut jobs and furlough workers, exacerbating unemployment;

• Funds are desperately needed for rebuilding our eroding infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water systems, mass transportation and environmental protection, and for developing new technologies for a sustainable future. These are public imperatives that will create jobs as well as restore economic vitality to our suffering communities;

• Big cuts to school budgets all over America undermine the quality of our schools and compromise the education of our children. Maryland needs $3.8 billion just to address deteriorating school facilities, a staggering amount of money that is a mere pittance compared to the $770 billion we have spent on the Iraq War alone since it began;

• A dramatic increase in poverty in the U.S. has accelerated the need for emergency food and shelter services. In Maryland, 133,000 children live in poverty each day;

• The physical and mental health needs of veterans are badly underfunded, and America has a huge unbudgeted liability for taking care of our veterans;

For all these reasons, we ask you to introduce legislation in Congress making major reductions in the Pentagon budget, amounting to at least 25% over the next five years as recommended by Representatives Frank and Paul. Savings can be invested in the crying social needs of the nation.

This should be a matter of bipartisan consensus, national urgency and Congressional mobilization. Please remember President Eisenhower.

We stand ready to help.

Very truly yours,

Senator Jamie Raskin Delegate Sheila Hixson


LGBT Delegates Make the Case for Marriage Equality

Dear Colleagues,

It will come as no surprise to any of you that this is a crucial week for the six of us. As you know, the House will soon consider the Civil Marriage Protection Act (Senate Bill 116), a bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry in Maryland. Importantly, it will also reaffirm religious communities' constitutional right to solemnize only those unions that fit within their faith traditions. First and foremost, we write to ask you - on behalf of our families and thousands of families headed by same-sex couples in our state - to vote yes on this legislation. Just as important, though, we are writing to refocus this debate back to what this bill will actually do. Quite simply, it will secure for our families the protections that marriage - and only marriage - provides to loving and committed couples who have pledged to spend the rest of their lives together.

The General Assembly will consider many other important bills and initiatives during this legislative session, but few will be as important to a group of Marylanders as the Civil Marriage Protection Act will be for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The estimated 15,600 families headed by same-sex couples in our state are remarkably similar to all other families. As anyone who attended the House or Senate hearing can attest, we come from all walks of life and reflect the great diversity for which Maryland is known. Same-sex couples live in every single one of Maryland's counties. Fully one-fifth of LGBT families include children under the age of 18. Our households are financially interdependent in ways that any couple in the state would recognize. We are proud to live in Maryland.

Our families need the same protections because we face many of the same challenges. We stretch our paychecks to put food on the table, keep a roof over our children's heads and plan for emergencies. We struggle with the skyrocketing costs of health care, college tuition, and gas for our cars. And though we shoulder many of these same responsibilities, we cannot count on the same kind of safety net should life throw more at us than we can handle.

Marriage is at its best and most effective during some of life's worst moments. The protections it affords to families are especially crucial when one's spouse is in the back of an ambulance, or rushed into emergency surgery, or dies unexpectedly. For us, as for all of Maryland's families, a marriage license will mean far more than the paper on which it is printed. For us, it means the possibility of shared health insurance, more stable homes for our children, and fewer conversations about legal documents with attorneys. We would never want the responsibility of voting on you and your spouse's will, power of attorney, or advanced medical directive, but you've been put in that position this week for our families. We have faith that when faced with the option, you will vote to allow same-sex couples the opportunity to fulfill the commitments of mutual support and shared responsibility that we have already made to one another and to our children.

You will hear arguments during the course of this debate that, in our opinion, distract from what this bill does and what our conversation should be about. On the one hand, some proponents of marriage equality will speak of the recognition and respect that marriage confers on a relationship. Though this is undoubtedly true, we cannot legislate what is, at its core, a matter of the heart. We certainly seek to be thought of as any other family, but what is more important - and what is actually at stake with this bill - is that we are treated as any other family by the state and its laws. And on the other hand, some opponents of marriage equality will change the subject and seek to debate "the definition of marriage." But not only does this bill not affect any couple already married in Maryland, reframing the debate abstractly distracts from the very tangible protections that we seek for our families.

There will also undoubtedly be a debate about whether the state could design some institution other than marriage. We believe that any attempt to create a separate set of rules for our families will be far more complicated than ending the exclusion of our families from marriage and inevitably lead to unequal treatment. In the decade since civil unions were first created, this belief has been borne out by experience. Before Vermont passed marriage equality legislation, their civil union law was explicitly limited to not include all the protections of marriage. And in New Jersey, despite the promise of equal treatment, many private employers have declined to offer health benefits to the civil union partners of their employees. Marriage equality is a far simpler and more powerful solution.

We understand that for many of you this will be a close call and a tough vote - personally, politically, or spiritually. We know that for many of you with LGBT family members and friends, it is an issue as personal as it is for us. For those of you who have committed to supporting the Civil Marriage Protection Act, we thank you and ask you to stand strong with us. For those of you who are not yet sure if you can support us, what we ask you for is the opportunity to talk face-to-face about the challenges our families face and how this legislation will help us meet them. What we ask is for the opportunity to protect our families as you would protect yours. Thousands of families headed by same-sex couples need your vote on this legislation. Colleagues, we need you. Please vote yes on Senate Bill 116, the Civil Marriage Protection Act. Vote yes because you know it is the right thing to do. Vote yes because you want to stand on the right side of history. Vote yes because every family in Maryland needs the protections that marriage provides.

Your colleagues,

Luke Clippinger
Bonnie Cullison
Anne Kaiser
Maggie McIntosh
Heather R. Mizeur
Mary Washington