LGBT news briefs

Idaho activists sentenced

A total of 23 LGBT activists arrested in February for protesting at the Idaho Statehouse were sentenced today on charges that included misdemeanor trespassing, and ordered to pay court costs based on the number of times they were arrested during ongoing protests calling for Idaho legislators to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Human Rights Act.

Idaho State Police made more than 190 arrests by the time the legislative session ended in March. Among those sentenced today were two women who both lost children to suicide because of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Read more here at Pink News.


Maryland offers trans employees improved health benefits

FreeState Legal Project announced today that the state of Maryland has removed language from its employee health benefits policy denied coverage to transgender state employees for transition-related health care.  The state made the change as part of settlement of a legal claim filed by FreeState Legal on behalf of Sailor Holobaugh.

Read details here at FreeState Legal Project.


Obama endangers religious freedom in America (not really)

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes barely let the ink dry on President Obama’s executive order banning discrimination against LGBT people by those contracting with the federal government before he posted this “sky is falling” rant warning that the president is endangering religious freedom.

Starnes offers this quote from Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy dtudies at the Family Research Council: “This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior.”


Lesbian tossed from water park for wearing men’s  swimwear

And also from Pink News:

Jill Sweeney of Indiana believes she was kicked out of WildWater Adventure in Muskegon, Michigan on July 9 after spending only three hours at the park for her bachelorette party because she was wearing men’s swimming trunks, a tank top, and a sports bra, and because she is a lesbian.

WildWater Adventure General Manager Camille Mark said guests at the water park are required to wear swimsuits, no street clothes allowed, and that Sweeney’s sports bra was considered street clothes. She also said Sweeney’s sexual orientation had nothing to do with the situation.

Read more here.

—  Tammye Nash

Baptists in the news

Joe Phelps

Joe Phelps

With a few notable exceptions — for instance, Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas and Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth — the Baptist faith isn’t known for being very welcoming toward and affirming of LGBT people. But the times, they are a’changing, as these news items from the weekend show.

Wedding bells at Kentucky’s Highland Baptist

A Baptist church in Kentucky will host a same-sex wedding next May for two of its gay members, and a Baptist bishop who left her church in Detroit after revealing she had married a woman has started a new congregation in Maryland that is open to the LGBT community.

David Bannister Jr., 29, and Steven Carr, 25, have lived together for five years. For the last two-and-a-half years, the couple have been working to get their church, Highland Baptist in Louisville, Ky., to let them have their wedding ceremony there. Now the church has agreed.

Highland Baptist, with a membership of about 1,200, left the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention about 20 years ago and is now affiliated with the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship. In 1998, the church included a gay couple’s photo in the church directory, and afterward slowly began to become more welcoming to LGBT people. In 2012, Highland Baptist ordained openly minister the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, who leads the church’s gay ministry.

The church formed a subgroup in February 2013 to study the issue of holding same-sex weddings after Bannister and Carr first approached Pastor Joe Phelps, but then postponed any decision. A new subgroup formed the past spring and in May decided unanimously that the church should hold same-sex weddings. Phelps said that church bylaws required the deacons to bring the question to the church membership for a vote. But to do so seemed wrong, he said. The church has posed a “fact sheet” here to “clarify” media reports.

Phelps said, “To vote on it is to basically ask the question, ‘Are gay people fully human like the rest of us?’ I think spiritually and morally, that’s a step we cannot take.”

As it stands right now, even though their church will host their wedding, Bannister and Carr will have to go elsewhere to be legally married, because Kentucky has a ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II recently overturned the ban and the state law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. But the judge also issued a stay on his ruling pending appeals.

Bishop Abrams’ new church

Baptist Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams, who resigned as pastor of Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit last October after announcing she had legally married another woman several months prior, has started a new congregation in Maryland. Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, a member of the Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, is an inclusive, welcoming congregation open to people of all backgrounds, Abrams has said.

Bishop Abrams

Bishop Allyson Abrams

Abrams, 43, was raised as a Baptist and was the first female pastor at Zion Progress church, serving there for five years. She was secretary of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity and was once a leader with the NAACP in Oakland County and president of the Oak Park school board.

Abrams was once married to a man and has three adult children. She had been divorced for several years when she met and fell in love with Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C. The two women were married in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal, in March 2013. Abrams said that while she was not forced out of Zion Progress Baptist Church, news of her marriage had begun to cause discord in the congregation and she chose to resign.

Episcopal Anglican Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, pastored by Rev. Joan Beilstein, is allowing Abrams’ new church to use its facilities for meetings until Empowerment Liberation Cathedral can find its own facilities.

Abrams made news again last month when she officiated at the wedding of R&B singer Monifah Carter and her girlfriend, Terez Thorpe, which aired on the final episode of the reality TV show R&B Divas of Atlanta on TVOne.

—  Tammye Nash

Marriages in Maine to begin at midnight

Marriage begins in state No. 8 tomorrow. Several city and town halls in Maine are planning special hours to accommodate people planning to marry as soon as the marriage-equality law fully takes effect.

Two other states that voted for equality in November are Washington and Maryland. Marriages began in Washington earlier this month and will begin in Maryland on Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The Portland Press reported that Portland’s city hall will open at 12:01 a.m. and stay open until 3 a.m. to issue licenses and perform ceremonies. Officials said they can accommodate up to 100 couples. Doors open at 10 p.m. tonight.

In Maryland, one company is pulling a Baylor Health Care System and will no longer offer its services for weddings of any type. Discover Annapolis Tours said it would lose $50,000 a year when it stops its business rather than serve same-sex couples.

“If they’re providing services to the public, they can’t discriminate who they provide their services to,” said Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Gay Weddings In Maine is a new website to help couples getting married in Maine. The site includes legal advice, practical information and more than 300 vendors happy to provide everything from flowers, limousines and catering halls to rehearsal dinner and honeymoon spots around the state.

—  David Taffet

When will same-sex marriages begin in Washington, Maryland, Maine?

On Election Day, three states approved same-sex marriage and one, Minnesota, defeated an anti-equality constitutional amendment. But marriages have not yet begun in the three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — that voted for marriage equality.

Maryland’s new marriage law takes effect on Jan. 1, but according to state officials, it will be a few more days after the New Year before marriage licenses will be issued. According to the Washington Post, that’s because Jan. 1 is a holiday and Maryland has a 48-hour waiting period from the time licenses are issued.

In Maine, marriage will go into effect sometime between Dec. 6 and and Jan. 5. The initiative goes into effect 30 days after the governor makes a “public proclamation of the result of the vote,” within 10 days after the result has been determined.

Maine voters on Tuesday overturned a 2009 ballot initiative that blocked a marriage equality law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. Equality lost in 2009 by 47 to 53 percent. The overturn vote this year was 53 to 47 percent.

Because Washington’s elections are done by mail, results came slower, but marriage passed by roughly the same margin here that it passed by in Maine and Maryland. Washington’s procedure is for the ballot initiative to be certified on Dec. 5. Marriage is expected to begin in that state the next day.

The biggest prize this year may still be California. If the Supreme Court decides not to hear the Proposition 8 case at its next conference Nov. 20, the lower court’s ruling stands and marriage begins immediately or within weeks in that state. If the high court decides to hear the case, a ruling would probably not be issued until June.

Marriage opponent Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, said his group was outspent 4 to 1, which he blames for the first successful votes for equality. Polls show 53 percent of Americans support marriage equality.

—  David Taffet

Hours after being vetoed in N.J., same-sex marriage advances in Maryland

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a marriage equality bill Friday evening with a bare minimum of 71 votes to 67. But it did so under the threat of a referendum, and it did so just hours after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed through on his promise to veto a marriage equality bill passed by that state’s Legislature on Thursday.

Visitors crowded into the Maryland House erupted into a loud and sustained cheer as the House clerk noted that 71 delegates had voted for the bill.

The vote came after hours of emotional debate that sounded, at times, like a series of sermons — with delegates declaring what they said God has ordained as marriage and warning that same-sex marriage would open the door to polygamy and marriages with children and that it would encourage children to become gay.

Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican, said a Democrat in the House begged her to vote against the bill because “it has caused so many churches to split and fracture.” And Republican Michael Smeigiel urged a “no” vote, saying the marriage equality bill would be divisive and that the Legislature should give same-sex couples civil unions.

The Maryland Senate, which passed the bill last year and is likely to do so again this year, is expected to vote in the near future. The bill was sponsored by Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

A key vote appeared to be that of Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Democrat from suburban Washington, D.C. Alston said she supported the bill last year but that her constituents opposed it so she voted against it. She said she was supporting and voting for the bill this year because the House adopted her amendment to enable a referendum on the issue.

The Alston amendment delays implementation of the new law until any litigation surrounding a possible referendum is resolved and states that, if any part of the law is “held invalid for any reason in a court of competent jurisdiction,” the entire law shall be made null and void.

The bill also won the support of a key Republican, Delegate A. Wade Kach of Baltimore, who backed the bill after getting approval of an amendment moving the effective date of the bill back from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. Kach said he wanted to ensure that the bill did not have any impact on the November elections.

The House rejected numerous other amendments, including one that would have enabled parents to opt out their children from receiving any sex education that mentioned same-sex marriages; one that prohibited a minor from marrying a person of the same sex; one that sought to require a constitutional amendment allowing same-sex partners to marry; and one that sought to allow for civil unions only.

The vote in the Maryland House of Delegates had been expected on Thursday, Feb. 16, but a flood of amendments and the sudden hospitalization of one of the bill’s supporters pushed that back until Friday. The chamber, which has 141 delegates, needed 71 to pass the bill.

Many opponents of the measure warned during debate that they would seek a referendum on the measure, if passed. Referenda law in Maryland requires that opponents of laws enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor file 55,736 valid signatures by May 31.

In New Jersey, Christie issued a “conditional veto” against the marriage equality bill there, saying he would create an “Ombudsman for Civil Unions” to “ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Supporters of the marriage bill said they would begin the process to seek votes to overturn Christie’s veto. They will need 27 in the Senate (where the bill passed with 24 votes) and 54 in the Assembly (where it passed with 42). But the Legislature can take two years to overturn that veto.

There is little expectation that supporters of the marriage equality law will seek a referendum in New Jersey, as Christie suggested.
Christie, in his veto statement, said “an issue of this magnitude and importance … requires a constitutional amendment [and] should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”

“I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change,” said Christie. “This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.”

Unexpectedly, Christie also emphasized his commitment to non-discrimination through his veto statement.

“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” said Christie. “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness. The Ombudsman will be charged with increasing awareness of the law regarding civil unions, will provide a clear point of contact for those who have questions or concerns and will be required to report any evidence of the law being violated. In this way, we can ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Lambda Legal Defense still has a lawsuit pending in state court, challenging the validity of the existing civil unions law.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Wash. Gov. Chris Gregoire signs marriage bill, predicts voters will defeat referendum


Gov. Christine Gregoire

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington state in a ceremony this afternoon. However, same-sex couples can’t begin marrying there yet pending a possibly ballot measure.

State Rep. Jamie Pedersen introduced his partner and future husband and their four children at the signing ceremony. He credited Gregoire with doing more to advance LGBT rights than anyone else in the country. Gregoire supported the state’s original domestic partnership law and anti-bullying legislation.

“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire said before signing the bill. “I’m proud that our same-sex couples will not be treated as separate but equal. They will be equal.”

Opponents have two options. They can collect signatures to put the marriage-equality law on the ballot and attempt to repeal it. If the law goes on the ballot, marriage cannot start until after the November election and then only if the proposition fails.

Another option would be to put forth a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. That option would take half the number of signatures to get on the ballot. But the law would go into effect in June, same-sex couples could get married and if the constitutional amendment passes, courts would have to decide if those marriages would remain legal. In California, 18,000 marriages are still considered valid even though Prop 8 stopped the additional marriage licenses from being issued in the state.

If signatures are not collected to stop marriage equality, the law goes into effect in June. In a referendum on Washington’s domestic partnership laws, voters upheld the law with 53 percent of the vote.

“If asked, the voters in Washington will say yes to equality,” Gregoire said.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

An Important Week for Equality in Maryland

For the last month, I’ve been working with Equality Maryland to bolster the great work they’ve been doing to pass gender identity non-discrimination legislation and marriage equality.

This week, the state Senate is set to vote on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, or, SB 116. We need at least 24 votes to pass marriage equality and right now, 24 State Senators have committed their support. We have never been so close to recognizing all families in Maryland and we can’t afford to lose steam now. We need you to join us in Annapolis to show your support and tell your legislators once and for all how much marriage equality means to you.

That’s not all. This Friday, the State House is set to hold a hearing on marriage equality, just one day after the Senate is likely to vote on the same legislation. The opposition will be there, testifying to prevent gay and lesbian Maryland families from obtaining the privileges, protections and responsibilities that are afforded with civil marriage.

Will you be there, too? It is critical that your Delegates hear how much this matters to you. If you are interested in testifying, please email today to get the details.

Can you join us for any or all of the following shifts at the State Capitol in Annapolis THIS WEEK? Wear RED to show your support for marriage equality.

Tuesday, February 22 from 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, February 24 from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 24 from 2:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

Friday, February 25 from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Friday, February 25 from 2:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

If you can attend, please R.S.V.P. to

If you can’t join us in the Capitol, you can still help us win.

Despite brush fires and high winds yesterday, I was joined by a very dedicated group of volunteers, in Linthicum, Maryland to knock doors for marriage equality. We hit the streets and identified supporters who then made calls to their Delegates right at the door.

One volunteer, a straight ally named Vivian even brought her two children along and talked to folks about the love she has for her own family and how she wants all committed, caring couples to be able to share in the same privileges and responsibilities that she and her husband enjoy. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Shawn and Rachel, who have been two of the strongest volunteer leaders in Ann Arundel County. Rachel has dedicated countless hours on the phone, talking to supporters and signing them up to take action. Shawn has been hitting the door in his own neighborhood, mobilizing his community to get involved.

Can you join me, Vivian, Rachel, and Shawn and the other amazing volunteers in Maryland and lend your time? There are phonebanks happening across the state every night this week to mobilize supporters during this critical time. For more information, please contact

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Julian Bond: Maryland must end marriage discrimination

I love it when allies step forward to strongly support us. It’s doubly meaningful when that ally is a civil rights legend who knows that discrimination is discrimination; there is no barometer as to how much any minority group has to suffer to deserve basic human rights.

Julian Bond knows this; he has been a steadfast supporter of LGBT rights. In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, he makes the case as to why Maryland must end marriae discrimination. A snippet:

As a civil right activist, I have spent my life fighting to make ours a more just and fair society. That’s why I urge the Maryland General Assembly to support marriage equality and pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. I firmly believe that this is a matter of civil rights, equal protection and equality. Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives – the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by everyone; there is no one in the United States who does not – or should not – share in enjoying these rights. Discrimination is wrong no matter who the victim is. We cannot move toward full human rights protection and opportunity without confronting – and ending – homophobia. For it is homophobia that is at the root of denying the freedom to marry to gays and lesbians. As my late neighbor and friend, Coretta Scott King, said in 1998:

“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

And in 2000 she added:

“We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say ‘common struggle’ because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination.”

And raising Coretta Scott King’s support for equality is so necessary. As we have seen, Bernice King, her daughter, has been out there using religion-based bigotry to hold an anti-equality position regarding civil marriage. And Julian Bond also drops Loving v. Virginia in there for good measure; those in favor of continuing marriage discrimination know they are on the losing side of the equality argument. You may make our lives miserable along the way, but you will ultimately lose.

Three years ago we celebrated the 40th anniversary of a case aptly called Loving v. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws and, many years later, allowed my wife, Pam, and me to marry in the state that declares “Virginia is for lovers.” Then, as now, proponents of marriage-as-is invoked “God’s plan.” The trial judge who sentenced the Lovings said that when God created the races: “He placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

God seems to have made room in his plan for interracial marriage. He will no doubt do the same for same-sex marriage.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Equal Marriage Bill Passes Maryland Senate Committee

This post is from HRC Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

Moments ago, the Maryland State Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, SB 116. This victory puts marriage equality one step closer to final passage. On behalf of HRC’s thousands of members and supporters in Maryland, we’d like to thank the seven members of the committee who voted yes, who are listed below.  The bill now heads to the full Senate where we’re working hard with our allies at Equality Maryland to secure the votes for passage. If you live in Maryland and would like to get involved in the effort to pass marriage equality, please email  

Maryland State Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Members who voted yes on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act:

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery County), Chair
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore City) Vice-Chair
Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County)
Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery County)
Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s County)
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery County)
Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County)

Left to right, Sens. Frosh, Gladden and Brochin

Left to right, Sens. Forehand, Ramirez, Raskin and Zirkin

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet