Gay candidates seek record voice in legislature
Four incumbents, four newcomers running for state office
Maryland might have the most gay, lesbian and transgendered state lawmakers in the country after November's election.
With four incumbents and four challengers hoping to join them in the General Assembly, Maryland already a leader could pass states such as California and New Hampshire, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports gay and lesbian candidates nationwide.
If all four challengers are successful in the September primary and the general election, and the gay incumbents win, Maryland would set the record for the most openly gay, lesbian and transgendered elected officials in state office. New Hampshire now is the record-holder with seven, said Denis Dison, with the Victory Fund.
"It's an exciting time for the state," said Byron Macfarlane, 27, of Woodstock, who is openly gay and running for Register of Wills in Howard County. "There was a time when there was no such thing as an openly gay elected official."
Openly gay and lesbian incumbents in the Maryland General Assembly are: Dels. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville, Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore and Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park; and Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington.
The newcomers, all of whom are Democrats, are: Mary Washington of Baltimore, who is running for delegate in District 43; Luke Clippinger, an assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel County, who is running for delegate in District 46; Dana Beyer, who is transgendered and making her second bid to represent District 18 in the House of Delegates, and Bonnie Cullison, a former union leader, who is running for delegate in District 19.
The primary election is Sept. 14.
All except for Beyer, who would be the first transgendered state lawmaker, are running for vacated seats and "have a good shot" at being elected, said Kevin Walling, director of communications for Equality Maryland Inc.
"It brings another group to the table, and I think we have a lot to add to the conversation," Clippinger said.
However, the Maryland Catholic Conference, which opposes same-sex marriage, believes voters will oppose candidates who support the issue.
"We believe that Marylanders as a whole support protecting traditional marriage in this state, and we feel this will be reflected in their election of candidates and if the issue is ever before them for a vote," said Mary Sullivan, communications director for the Annapolis-based group, who believes same-sex marriage will be a deciding factor in votes.
All candidates who file for office by the July 6 deadline will receive a survey from the Catholic Conference asking about their views. Sullivan said the survey is likely to include a question about marriage.
What an increase in the General Assembly's gay and lesbian membership would mean is not clear. The vacant seats candidates will be competing for currently are held by Ann Marie Doory (D-Dist. 43); Henry Heller (D) and Roger Manno (D), both in Dist. 19; and Carolyn Krysiak (D-Dist. 46) all of whom are considered supporters of the gay and lesbian community on issues such as same-sex marriage, Walling said. Doory, Heller and Krysiak are not seeking re-election, and Manno has announced plans to run for the state Senate.
In February, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler issued an opinion that state agencies now will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The opinion did not address the issue of same-sex marriages performed in Maryland.
That decision drew impassioned criticism from some conservative lawmakers, most notably Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (D-Dist. 31) of Glen Burnie, who attempted to have Gansler impeached.
As for the candidates, they say they stand for more than gay rights.
"I'm the daughter of two health care professionals. I'm African American. I live in and grew up in cities. And also I'm a lesbian," said Washington, who ran for delegate in 2006. "I really see myself as being sort of a member of so many communities."
If elected, Washington would be the first openly gay black member of the General Assembly.
"I really am fairly reticent about painting people into a corner about a single issue," McIntosh said. "It's great that people who are openly gay are running, but you cannot just look at these candidates and say, Oh, that's their agenda.'"
McIntosh became the first openly gay state lawmaker in Maryland in 1992.
"For me, personally, it doesn't have anything to do with being a lesbian," Cullison said of her reason for running. "It has to do with the right moment, the right experience and the right skills for the job."
She served as president of the Montgomery County Education Association from 2003 to 2009.
Cullison and her domestic partner of 26 years live in the Aspen Hill area of Silver Spring.
Clippinger said his campaign has been focused largely on issues such as schools and public safety, which most voters care about, not only those who support the gay and lesbian community.
Still, legislation allowing same-sex marriage and addressing transgender discrimination are top priorities for openly gay lawmakers and their supporters.
Dana Beyer, who ran for delegate in 2006, said the election of more openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered lawmakers could affect legislation, because members of the General Assembly would come in contact with more of them.
"That's what will make the difference," Beyer said. "When you get to a point where it's no big deal."
If Maryland increases its number of LGBT lawmakers, Beyer said the state will have a much greater chance of passing legislation allowing same-sex marriage, assuming Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) retains his office.