Tag Archives: maryland

White supremacists in the ‘age of Trump’

When Hillary Clinton warned about the dangers of the “alt-right” in an August speech, she was referring to white supremacists like Matthew Heimbach.

Directly, it turned out.

“Hillary noted me by name on her website,” said Heimbach, a self-described white nationalist who sounded giddy at the mention.

Heimbach was referring to the aftermath of an August speech in which Hillary Clinton warned about the dangers of the “alt-right” movement, calling out people like Heimbach by name. At 25, he’s already a racial provocateur on the rise.

Despite his age, Heimbach has been agitating about race for years, long before Trump ran for president. Though he is an avowed Trump supporter, Heimbach is first and foremost a product of Maryland, a liberal state still struggling to come to terms with its Confederate-friendly past.

“(Trump) is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” Clinton said in a speech on Aug. 25. “The names may have changed. Racists now call themselves ‘racialists.’ White supremacists now call themselves ‘white nationalists.’ The paranoid fringe calls itself’ alt-right.’ But the hate burns just as bright.’’

Heimbach says he is not a racist, despite calling himself one in a 2014 Nightline interview that he argues was edited to quote him out of context. He also claims he is not anti-Semitic, but he posed at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington with a sign that read: “Six million? More like 271,301.”

The reference to Heimbach on Clinton’s campaign website appears on a page dedicated to explaining Trump’s ties to the white supremacists on the alt-right. “The following quote from a 2013 Heimbach speech called “I Hate Freedom” is featured: “The ’freedom’ for other races to move freely into white nations is nonexistent. Stay in your own nations, we don’t want you here.”

Part of what sets Heimbach apart from other white supremacists is his willingness to argue his case with anyone, particularly those repulsed by his ideas.

“He’s very media savvy,” said Ryan Lenz, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog. “He knows how to talk to people and make himself seem what he is not. He uses media to elevate his image. Meanwhile, he is hiding from the realities of his hate. And believe me, Matthew Heimbach does hate.”

Heimbach’s actions at a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 1 make it hard to argue with Lenz. In one of the first videos of violence at a Trump campaign event, Heimbach, who is baby-faced, heavy-set and with close-cropped black hair, is seen repeatedly shoving Kashiya Nwanguma, a black female protester, on the auditorium floor.

He was not arrested and charged in the incident, but was later sued in civil court by Nwanguma. In response to the charges, Heimbach said: “They’re another attempt by the far left to bog us down by using law-fare (sic),” playing on the word “warfare.’’

In June, Heimbach organized but did not attend a joint rally in Sacramento, California, of his Traditionalist Worker Party and a local skinhead group that turned bloody when anti-fascist counter protestors arrived. Ten people were injured, two with critical stab wounds according to the Sacramento Fire Department.

Where Heimbach goes from here will answer the question of whether he is an anomaly made prominent by Trump, or a future leader of white supremacists who remains on the political scene after this year’s presidential election.

“If Hillary wins, the Republican establishment will be totally discredited,” he said. “The ‘alt-right’ will be the only option for the white working class. We will be become their de facto voice.”

Heimbach is actively preparing for the possibility.

In 2018, he plans to run for a state legislature seat in Paoli, Indiana, where he moved in 2013.

And Heimbach believes he can win. “There is a clear path to electoral victory,” he said. “If I can just get a sizeable percentage of people who are disgusted with Democrats and Republicans to vote again, I can win the seat.”

There is also his charisma to consider. Speaking with Heimbach — who is widely described as friendly, well-spoken and accessible — is disorienting. He is genial, smooth and adept at presenting his views as simple solutions to complex problems, and not an improbable return to race-based segregation.

Yet all his purported solutions lead to the same thing white supremacists have been seeking for years: a homeland for whites only within the United States.

“America is big enough to divide,” said Heimbach, citing the breakup of the Soviet Union into different ethnic-based republics as a model for what could happen in the U.S. “We’ll take any patch of dirt. We’re not asking for people to follow us. We’re asking to opt out.”

He intends to pursue this end by political means. In addition to his own candidacy in 2018, Heimbach plans to field a slate of Traditionalist Worker Party candidates for local, state and county offices in regions he considers friendly to his cause, specifically in rural Appalachia.

“We don’t have to win to win,” said Heimbach, referring to the idea of preventing Republican candidates from holding on to their seats. “If you support free trade, amnesty, gun regulation, more money to Israel, if we can go ahead and knock you out of office, we’re going to have a disproportionate impact on American politics.”

Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party has yet to field a candidate in any race. However, Heimbach said he has already recruited seven candidates to run for state or local offices in Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana. For now, Western Maryland is not in Heimbach’s sights, but he hopes to run candidates there one day.

“Western Maryland doesn’t like being under the control of Annapolis,” said Heimbach, a native of Poolesville, Maryland. “We’d like to work with people there to have their own state, or join West Virginia so they can be a part of state that more reflects their values.”

“There’s no easy answer to why someone becomes radicalized,” says Patrick James, a researcher and project manager for the Profiles of Individual Radicalization project at the University of Maryland. “But they tend to come from a middle-class background.”

Heimbach’s father, who did not return calls for comment, was a history teacher at the local high school in Poolesville, Maryland. The town’s population is 5,000, almost 90 percent of whom are white and with a median family income of $150,000, nearly double the state median, according to the Maryland Department of Planning.

At Poolesville High, Heimbach became interested in history and learned about Maryland’s seditious side during the Civil War. Although Maryland never seceded from the Union, its proximity and ties to the South were well known. Its state song, “Maryland My Maryland,” was written in 1861 at the start of the Civil War and includes a lyric about how the state “spurns the Northern scum.”

Poolesville was founded by a man named John Poole, whose house is now a historic site in town. According to Heimbach, there is a framed quote on the wall in the house from a Union commander that reads: “Poolesville was most treasonous town in the entire south.”

During high school, Heimbach also discovered Confederate ancestors in his family tree and claimed that Poolesville had voted for segregationist George Wallace repeatedly. According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, which could only locate polling going back to the 1976 presidential primaries the last time Wallace ran for President, Poolesville cast only 29 votes for him out of a total of about 400. However, there is evidence of a local Poolesville group that tried to stop desegregation there in 1956.

“There was a huge part of our local history that was ignored based on political correctness,” said Heimbach.

After high school, he attended Montgomery College just 30 minutes away from his hometown of Poolesville. It was where he began to despise what he called the “social justice warriors”on campus. By the time he transferred to Towson University in 2011, Maryland’s liberal side had gotten under his skin.

“If you can’t make it at Towson with political differences, you can’t make it anywhere,” said Richard Vatz, the Towson professor who briefly served as a faculty adviser to a student group Heimbach started there called Youth for Western Civilization.

Heimbach saw it differently. “Towson was Montgomery College on steroids,” he said.

So was it old vs. new Maryland that led Heimbach to be called part of a “hate movement” by a candidate for president?

“More often radicalization is driven by some kind of emotional need,” says James, ”a quest for significance, the need to be someone.”

In response, Heimbach said: “I think that’s dismissive of the legitimate political, economic and social concerns of white millennials.”

Emotional or otherwise, Heimbach’s attention-seeking efforts began in earnest at Towson, where he formed the White Student Union, escalating his race-based provocations by chalking a series of slogans around campus that included, “White Pride,” ‘White Guilt is Over” and ‘Celebrate Your European Heritage.”

Despite Towson’s standing as the safest school in the Maryland collegiate system for crimes per capita in 2014, Heimbach and other members of the White Student Union embarked on campus night patrols in 2013 to prevent black-on-white crime. The ensuing attention included a widely seen profile by Vice Media that landed Heimbach firmly on the larger white nationalist scene.

Upon graduation he doubled down, joining the neo-Confederate League of the South, attending events with the Aryan Terror Brigade and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. He twice addressed the annual conference hosted by Stormfront, one of the biggest Internet forums for white supremacists and hate speech. He has also traveled abroad, visiting with far-right groups in Europe, including Greece’s Golden Dawn, the Czech Workers’ Party and the New Right Party in Romania.

All of it in apparent preparation for what is happening now, or per Heimbach’s master plan, in 2018.

By then, it will be more clear whether he is the next David Duke, to whom he’s so often compared, or merely as Lenz said: “The consummate glad hander of the racist right.”


Maryland lays out reasons against new trial in ‘Serial’ case

A Baltimore judge was wrong to consider “a novel standalone claim” about the reliability of cellphone tracking evidence in granting a new trial for a man whose murder conviction was re-examined in a popular Serial podcast, the Maryland attorney general’s office says.

The podcast attracted millions of listeners who became armchair detectives as the series analyzed the case for weeks in the winter of 2014.

Appealing the decision to retry Adnan Syed, attorneys for the state contend that retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch should not have ruled that his initial attorneys were constitutionally deficient because they failed to bring into evidence a warning from AT&T.

The cover sheet says: “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”

The first three words — “Outgoing calls only” — are underlined in the fax AT&T sent to Baltimore police.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors improperly used unreliable tower data on incoming calls to place Syed’s phone near the burial site of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, who was killed in 1999.

Welch agreed, ruling that Syed’s attorney provided “ineffective assistance for the failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence.”

In its appeal filed Monday, the state counters that Syed’s trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, “was far from ineffective in her challenge of the state’s cellphone evidence.”

“For one thing, there is no consensus among experts in the forensic community that Syed’s interpretation of the fax cover sheet is valid,” wrote Thiru Vignarajah, a deputy attorney general.

“Where one expert concludes the disclaimer does not apply, another finds it does, and yet a third opines it is ambiguous, trial counsel cannot be declared ineffective for a sustained and vigorous cross examination that does not incorporate an uncertain line of attack.”

The state also argued that Syed waived his right to raise the issue about the cross-examination failure now because he should have raised it in a prior proceeding. But the judge ruled that Syed didn’t “intelligently or knowingly” waive his right, noting that he never completed his high school degree.

“We think Judge Welch reached the correct decision in granting Syed a new trial,” said C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney.

Syed’s attorneys also argued that he deserves a retrial because his original attorney did not contact Asia McClain Chapman, an alibi witness who swore in an affidavit that she saw Syed at the Woodlawn library about the same time prosecutors say Lee was murdered.

Welch disagreed with the defense on that point. He also disagreed that prosecutors breached their duty by withholding exculpatory evidence.

But the attorney general’s office says the judge was wrong to include arguments about the cover sheet in reopened legal proceedings that were supposed to be predicated on Chapman’s newly available affidavit.

“Maryland’s courts have imposed few limits on what qualifies as in the ‘interest of justice,’ but limits remain,” wrote Vignarajah.

On the Web…

Find the podcast Serial here.

Is the birthplace of ‘Uncle Tom’ in a Maryland hayfield?

The archaeological finds seem ordinary at first. A rusted belt buckle, shards of broken pottery and glass, remnants of an old clay pipe.

But in this detritus of lives lived more than 200 years ago on a southern Maryland farm known as La Grange, researchers in Charles County believe they have uncovered the birthplace of a key figure in African American history.

Josiah Henson is not a household name, but the autobiography the former slave published in 1849 provided integral source material — and some say inspired the title character — for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” published three years later. Stowe’s book, the most popular novel of the 19th century and one that has been translated into more languages than any other book besides the Bible, is credited with helping anti-slavery forces gain support for their cause in the years leading to the Civil War.

In his telling, Henson describes being born on a farm belonging to “Francis N” near Port Tobacco, Maryland, and he later relates the story of his mother being brutally attacked by an overseer. When his father sought revenge for the attack, he was punished with 100 lashes and had his right ear cut off. His father was then sold to another slave owner.

Julia King, a professor of anthropology at nearby St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said it took months of scrutinizing old documents and several weeks of digs at the 7-acre property to determine that this was indeed where Henson was born and lived for the first eight or nine years of his life.

She admits the evidence is not definitive.

“We’re not going to find a piece of ceramic that says ‘Josiah Henson was born here,’” King s as she led a tour of the excavation site. But she and others have discovered plenty of convincing clues, more than enough, she says, to make the case that this is Henson’s birthplace.

Located on the winding road between Port Tobacco and La Plata, the grand house built in the late 18th century by Francis Newman still stands on the property. The slave quarters are long gone, but after mapping out the land and taking shovel samples every 25 feet or so, King and her team believe they have located the site of the former structures. It is there, with just a few sample digs, that they have uncovered a trove of items dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They expect to find many more in the weeks ahead as the project continues.

King has spent her career as an anthropologist and says she doesn’t often get emotional about artifacts that she and her team unearth. This time, however, was different. She had just watched the remake of “Roots” when the digging portion of the project began. The realization that the miniseries was set at about the same time that Henson would have been enslaved hit her hard.

“I was really just overwhelmed with emotion,” King said. “And I was really just grateful that I had the opportunity to get this bigger story out.”

In his book, Henson tells of how his family was separated and he and his mother were then sold to an owner in Montgomery County, where a park now bears his name. He later tried to buy his way out of slavery but was cheated out of money by his former owner. Finally, in 1830, he escaped from a slave owner in Kentucky and made his way to freedom in Canada, where he founded a settlement for former slaves.

Henson’s story also is an inspiration for Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County NAACP, who says she wants to make sure others in the community learn more about him.

“He’s very much a part of American history, and we know that our history over the years has been denied or not really taught in history books,” she said. “It’s a proud moment here for African Americans in Charles County to know that someone with the same blood running through our veins was born here and was such a significant figure.”

What happens next to this site is unclear. The area believed to be the location of the former slave quarters is in a rolling hayfield lined by giant pine trees. King says that a great first step would be a historical marker to alert passersby to its importance. Perhaps more ambitiously, she’s trying to persuade the local high school to create a “Hamilton”-like musical based on Henson’s life.

“I just want to make sure everyone knows who he is and where he lived,” King says.

An AP member exchange.

Barbara Mikulski will not seek a sixth term in U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Maryland, announced on March 2 that she will not seek re-election. Mikulski will complete her fifth term in office in January 2017.

“Because every day, I want to wake up thinking about you — the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small business owners and families,” Mikulski said at a news conference in Maryland. “I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your futures. Because it’s always been about you, never about me. That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards.”

Mikulski was the first Democratic woman senator elected in her own right and was one of only two women senators serving when she took office in 1987.

On Jan. 5, 2011, she became the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history when she was sworn in to the 112th Congress, breaking the record previously held by Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine.

On March 17, 2012, Mikulski surpassed U.S. Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers as the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Congress. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the congresswoman from Maryland’s third district in 1976.

Mikulski holds many other “firsts,” including being the first chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The following are the senator’s remarks at the press conference:

“It’s great being here in Fells Point today where I spent a good part of my life and where I learned my values.  Growing up in East Baltimore was growing up in an urban village where people lived, worked, shopped and worshipped. But it’s not about what we did, it’s about what we believed.

“It’s the values I learned from my family — my mother and father, from my church — the nuns and priests, and from the people in the neighborhoods themselves. It’s where I learned about patriotism, the love of this country, and that you have to fight for and protect the freedom and opportunity it gives. Where I learned about neighbor helping neighbor through the genuine gestures and actions of people who were looking out for one another every day and in every way. Where I learned that we are all in this together as we witnessed young men and women go off to protect their country and helped care for the families they hoped to come home to. 

“And it’s where I learned about service from my mother and father who said, ‘Good morning can I help you?’ every morning when they opened the small neighborhood grocery they owned and ran. I still believe in ‘Good morning can I help you.’ That’s the spirit of East Baltimore. It’s how I was raised and how I still live every day. 

“For me, service is about solving problems for my constituents. I could never put you or your needs on a back burner. With my own re-election on the horizon, I thought long and hard about how I want to spend the next two years – what is it I want to campaign for, for you or for me? 

“I had to decide whether to spend my time fighting to keep my job or fighting for your job. Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell to meet your day-to-day needs?  Do I spend my time focusing on my election or the next generation. Do I spend the next two years making promises about what I will do or making progress on what I can do right now.

“The more I thought about it, the more the answer became really clear — I want to campaign for you. That’s why I’m here to announce I won’t be seeking a 6th term as a United States Senator for Maryland.

“Because every day, I want to wake up thinking about you — the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small business owners and families. I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your future. Because it’s always been about you, never about me. That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards. 

“Over the next two years, I’ll be fighting to give families a raise by finishing what we started with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, once and for all guaranteeing equal pay for equal work. I’ll be fighting for a family-friendly tax code with targeted tax breaks, doubling the child care tax credit to make child care more affordable. 

“I’ll be fighting for you jobs. Creating jobs today in construction rebuilding America’s roads, bridges and water plants. And creating jobs for tomorrow in the new economy through research and discovery. 

“I’ll keep up the charge to make college more affordable with permanent tuition tax breaks and by reforming Pell Grants, making them year round, easier to apply for and increasing them to cover more costs. And families should be able to refinance student loans at lower rates. I’ll also be introducing my new bill, Debt for Duty, providing student loan forgiveness in exchange for time spent volunteering.

“I’ll be making sure promises made are promises kept to our veterans. Because if you’ve been on the frontlines, you shouldn’t have to stand in line for benefits you’ve earned and deserve. And I’ll be protecting the social safety net for seniors, because ‘Honor thy father and mother,’ isn’t just a great commandment to live by, it’s good public policy. That means making sure Social Security remains a guaranteed, lifetime and inflation-proof benefit and that Medicare is there when you need it. 

 “To the people of Maryland — I thank you. You’ve honored me with your confidence and trust. I’ve tried to live up to it and will continue to do that every day. I pledge, as always, that I will take the values I learned living here in East Baltimore and work as hard as ever, dedicated to you and dedicated to the nation. Thank you and God bless.”

Ganja-preneurship: College starts class on the business of marijuana

Start stoner-friendly munchies stands in Colorado. Or open a lounge near a marijuana dispensary in Oregon.

Or try selling fertilizer to weed growers, dude.

“Opportunities are endless, whatever we can create in our heads,” said Dean Warner, an Anne Arundel Community College student in Arnold, Maryland.

Earlier this month, the college launched a class exploring business opportunities around the country’s expanding marijuana market.

“The people that made the money in the Gold Rush were not the guys with the nuggets,” said professor Shad Ewart. “It was the people who sold them the picks, the shovels, made the blue jeans, opened the banks.”

Last year, Maryland became the 18th state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Someone caught with less than 10 grams, however, still faces a fine up to $100 for a first offense.

Four states — Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado — went further to make pot legal for recreational use. When combined with medical marijuana taxes and fees, Colorado earned $3.5 million from pot sales in January of last year.

“I’m just trying to open their eyes to the opportunities,” Ewart said. “Be the guy that supplies the lighting, the nutrients, the dirt.”

He’s taught business and marketing classes at the college for more than 15 years.

His latest class was almost called “Ganja-preneurship” (too provocative, he said) and is instead called — Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Emerging Markets: Marijuana Legalization.

It began Feb. 2 when he wrote the course number on the board.

“You see the green pen?”


“The green that I’m talking about in this class is money.”

Understand, this class is not Cheech & Chong.

“That’s a part I want to de-emphasize,” Ewart said.

A similar course is offered at the University of Denver, though Ewart said area colleges offer no such courses.

His class _ also almost called “Canna-business” — comes as advocates want to see last year’s decriminalization law extended to cover rolling papers and other paraphernalia.

The first proposal to decriminalize pot in Maryland was introduced in 2011. Similarly, Ewart said he’s spent two years lobbying administrators to allow his course.

Four times, he appeared before the committee that approves new courses, he said. Typically, a new course is approved in one semester, he said.

“Other (professors) have been a little bit nervous,” he said.

Last year’s General Assembly session also saw the expansion of medical marijuana laws in Maryland to allow patients access to pot if approved by doctors. That expansion allowed up to 15 growers.

County Executive Steve Schuh, who served last session in the House of Delegates, voted against both decriminalization and medical-marijuana expansion. Schuh’s position hasn’t changed, said Owen McEvoy, his spokesman.

“That being said, we have to respect the position of the community college to dictate their curriculum,” McEvoy said.

Seventeen students enrolled in the class to learn everything from the history of marijuana in Ancient Egypt to its economic impact today. There will be readings, but no textbooks.

“There’s nothing out there _ I looked,” Ewart said.

Alexander Rossi, a 2014 graduate of South River High School, enrolled after betting on penny stocks of startup marijuana growers. He earned more investing, he said, than working his job at Jerry’s Seafood in Bowie.

The class attracted older students, too, like Michael Malone. He owns Cancun Cantina West in Hagerstown.

“Businesses are changing,” he said. “This is the future.”

Information from: The Capital, http://www.capitalgazette.com/

An AP member exchange.

24 protesters arrested in anti-fracking demonstration

About two dozen people were arrested on July 14 as they blocked the entrances to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headquarters in protest of the proposed Cove Point liquefied natural gas export facility and others proposed around the country.

The demonstration was the second consecutive day of action, according to a statement from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Protesters, according to CCAN, are demanding that the Obama administration listen to those in the impacted communities throughout the federal regulatory process and that FERC reject Dominion Resources’ proposed LNG export facility in Cove Point, Maryland, just 50 miles south of the White House on the Chesapeake Bay.

On July 13, more than a thousand people rallied on the National Mall to protest the project and others.

Then protesters linked arms and blocked the main entrance and a secondary entrance of FERC as employees came in to work on July 14.

At least 24 people were arrested, including demonstrators from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. Homeland Security police made the arrests. The DC Metropolitan Police was processing the arrests of the demonstrators, who were charged with “incommoding,” or blocking a public passageway, and were being released on July 14 with citations and $50 fines.

If approved, the Cove Point export facility would be the linchpin tying together communities from northern Pennsylvania to central Virginia to southern Maryland that are struggling for a clean and healthy environment free of fracked gas infrastructure.

Alex Lotorto, a resident of Pike County, Pennsylvania, was among those arrested. “There is a FERC-permitted natural gas pipeline and compressor station about to be constructed in my hometown of Milford, Pennsylvania. The exhaust is equal to over a 100 diesel school buses idling constantly next to homes where children are sleeping,” said Lotorto. “I’m here to let FERC and the company know what’s waiting for them if the permit is issued.”

Michael Bagdes-Canning from Butler County, Pennsylvania, also was arrested outside FERC’s office. “I’m willing to go to jail because my friend Susan wakes up every morning with headaches from the air she breathes from the Bluestone natural gas processing plant,” said Bagdes-Canning. “I’m willing to go to jail for the dozens of battles we are fighting in Butler County, Pennsylvania; battles that will only intensify if the international market is opened up by export facilities like Cove Point.”

Among the arrested people, their supporters, and the 150,000 people who sent in comments to FERC opposing the Cove Point project, the consensus is clear: Now is the time to stop the pollution of communities dealing with the extraction, transportation, processing and potential export of hydraulically fractured — fracked — natural gas. It’s time to get serious about shifting to clean, jobs-producing, renewable energy.

Karen Leu, a resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, was among those arrested. “The LNG facility at Cove Point does not speak love to rural communities faced with unhealthy drinking water or a world facing a climate catastrophe,” said Leu. “What will we stand up for if not love?”

Maryland governor poised to sign bill banning bias based on gender identity

A measure to ban bias based on gender identity and gender expression cleared the Maryland General Assembly on Thursday, and Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to sign the bill into law.

The House of Delegates passed the measure 82-57 on Thursday after a long and sometimes heated debate that focused largely on how the bill would affect use of public restrooms and gym showers.

All 82 delegates who voted for the bill were Democrats, while 42 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted against the bill. The measure would prevent discrimination on matters relating to housing, employment, credit and use of public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants.

Supporters said the bill was long overdue, and they noted that some of Maryland’s larger counties already have a similar law. For example, Del. Kumar Barve said Montgomery County has about 1 million residents living under a statute that is fundamentally the same as the bill lawmakers were voting on, and there have not been problems with the law.

“I’m voting for this because it really is the proper resolution of an American standard. That American standard says you don’t have to like me or anybody else, but in a civilized society we have to make accommodations for our equal citizen partners here,” Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, said.

The legislation defines gender identity as the gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth. Under the bill, gender identity is demonstrated as “consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.”

Opponents focused on bathrooms.

“I have not had a single person contact me and say: ‘Please, please, let men go into the women’s room if they have this certain identity,’” Del. Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, said.

Critics also were worried about men who identified with being women would be able to shower with girls at public swimming pools.

“I can tell everyone that I feel like a man inside, but I am in a woman’s body, and I would not think to go shower in a man’s locker room,” said Del. Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s, said in those circumstances, a transgender person would be asked to use another space to shower. If a facility does not have a separate space, putting up a curtain and a rod would suffice, Pena-Melnyk said.

“The bill does not require you to build or spend any money,” Pena-Melnyk said.

Pena-Melnyk also said the public accommodations part of the bill does not include school bathrooms.

O’Malley, a Democrat, congratulated the bill sponsors, Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, and Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore.

“We’re proud to stand with these leaders, the LGBT community, and other allies to complete this major piece of unfinished business — ensuring that everyone is protected from discrimination under the law,” O’Malley said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this bill.”

Supporters said 17 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws protecting transgender rights. Wisconsin does not have such a law.

Since 2011, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Nevada have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination statutes.

“The Maryland Legislature brought this country one step closer to the promise of its founding documents by recognizing that everyone should be treated equally, including transgender Marylanders,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “Being free from discrimination on the job is one of the things that makes our economy thrive and our nation succeed. It’s long past time for these essential workplace protections to extend from coast to coast and everywhere in between.”

Green groups take aim at Maryland liquefied natural gas project

Leaders of more than a dozen green groups are calling on President Barack Obama to revisit proposals to expand U.S. exports of fracked and liquefied natural gas, which the environmentalists say would significantly undermine his administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

A letter signed by representatives from 16 national and regional groups urges Obama to ensure a comprehensive federal environmental impact review for one of the most controversial liquefied natural gas export proposals before his administration — the Cove Point facility proposed by Dominion Resources just outside of Washington, D.C., on the Chesapeake Bay.

“President Obama, exporting LNG is simply a bad idea in almost every way. We again implore you to shift course on this disastrous push to frack, liquefy, and export this climate-wrecking fossil fuel,” the letter states.

“As a first step, tell [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland. Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this massive $3.8 billion project just a short drive from your house. An EIS will put more facts on the table and, we believe, will persuade you and the nation that a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin,” the letter continues.

Groups signing the letter included 350.org, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, all sponsors of a weekend rally in California that was the largest anti-fracking protest in the state’s history, as well as the Sierra Club, the Energy Action Coalition and Earthjustice.

National leaders Bill McKibben and Michael Brune joined a tele-press conference to release the letter.

“From Maryland to California, Americans are taking to the streets to say that climate leaders don’t frack,” said McKibben, co-founder and president of 350.org, the organization at the forefront of the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Emerging and credible analyses show that significant expansion of fracking and gas export infrastructure could cripple global efforts to solve climate change, which Secretary of State John Kerry recently called perhaps the “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” In fact, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the LNG export process — including drilling, piping, compressing, liquefying, shipping, re-gasifying and burning — likely make it as harmful to the climate, or worse than, burning coal overseas.

Analysis shows the $3.8 billion Cove Point plan could alone trigger more lifecycle climate change pollution than all seven of Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants combined.

“President Obama has told us many times that failure to address the climate crisis amounts to the betrayal of our children and future generations, so it would be contradictory for the president to allow the LNG export facility at Cove Point to start operating without a full environmental review,” said Brune. “We can’t cut climate pollution and simultaneously expand the use of dirty fossil fuels, and we must fully understand the consequences of liquefying fracked natural gas for export. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure keeps America tied to the past. We should be exporting clean energy innovation, not the dirty fuels of the 19th century.”

The Cove Point project has faced particularly fierce regional and local resistance in recent months, including a record-large environmental protest in downtown Baltimore in late February and a string of three civil disobedience protests over the past three weeks resulting in arrests across Maryland.

Cove Point would be the first export facility to open fracking operations across the Marcellus Shale to Asian export markets. It also would be built in an area in southern Maryland that is by far the most densely populated human community in the vicinity of any proposed gas export facility in the nation.

Despite calls from Maryland health, environmental and community leaders as well as Maryland’s attorney general for a full Environmental Impact Statement on Cove Point, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week that it would release a more limited and less participatory Environmental Assessment on May 15 of this year.

Gay marriage court win in Ohio may spawn new suits

Two gay men who successfully sued to get their out-of-state marriage recognized in Ohio despite a state ban are at the forefront of what supporters and experts believe will be a rush of similar lawsuits aiming to take advantage of an apparent legal loophole.

John Arthur of Cincinnati, who is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, won the right to be listed as married on his death certificate and to have his partner of more than 20 years listed as his surviving spouse.

The federal judge’s order came after Arthur and his partner Jim Obergefell sued state and local officials to ensure that they can be buried next to each other in Arthur’s family plot, which is in a cemetery that only allows descendants and spouses.

At least four similar lawsuits are pending in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Nevada. On Friday, a Louisville couple filed a federal challenge to Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, contending the state doesn’t treat them and similar couples equally with other married couples.

Ohio banned gay marriage in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote; Arthur and Obergefell, both 47, got married in Maryland on July 11 and wanted it recognized in their home state before Arthur’s death.

The couple’s attorney, Al Gerhardstein, plans to request that the pair be able to file a joint tax return and get other benefits that other married couples enjoy. “And I cannot see how they will not be granted,” Gerhardstein said.

In his decision ordering the marriage to be recognized on Arthur’s death certificate, federal Judge Timothy Black said Ohio law historically has recognized out-of-state marriages as valid as long as they were legal where they took place, citing marriages between cousins and involving minors.

“How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriages as ones it will not recognize?” Black wrote. “The short answer is that Ohio cannot.”

While Arthur and Obergefell have unusual circumstances because of Arthur’s poor health, Black predicted that similar cases soon will emerge as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to strike down part of an anti-gay marriage law.

While that decision “is ostensibly limited to a finding that the federal government cannot refuse to recognize state laws authorizing same-sex marriage, the issue whether states can refuse to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is now surely headed to the fore,” Black said.

In his strong dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia predicted just that.

“As far as this court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe (to drop),” he wrote. “The majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.”

Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet said that hundreds of gay married couples living in states with gay marriage could file lawsuits similar to Arthur and Obergefell’s.

“There’s a social movement here at work,” said Tushnet, who has written about the legal strategy of civil rights lawyers. “And these cases, they’re already beginning to bubble up and almost certainly a fair number of them are going to be decided in favor of the married couples.”

Most of the 35 states that ban or limit gay marriage, if not all of them, recognize lawful marriages performed in other states and that will lend success to other lawsuits, said Camilla Taylor, an attorney who specializes in marriage cases at New York-based Lamda Legal, a national gay rights group.

Phil Burress, president of the Ohio-based anti-gay marriage group Citizens for Community Values, said the decision allowing the gay couple’s marriage to be recognized in Ohio is an isolated one that amounts to “judicial activism” that likely later will be struck down by an appeals court.

“This one man, unelected, appointed by Obama, who wants same-sex marriage, is forcing this upon the rest of the people of Ohio, and he’s violating our state constitution and it’s wrong,” Burress said.

“If they want same-sex marriage in Ohio, then do it the way we did it and go to the polls, and we’ll decide,” he said.

Gay marriage supporters are seeking to get the issue put on Ohio’s ballot next year or in 2016.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine – who is named in Arthur and Obergefell’s lawsuit ­– said this week that DeWine’s office will defend the right of Ohioans to define marriage and that the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized that it’s a definition that traditionally lies with states.

A Pennsylvania couple, Ed Hill, 67, and David Palmer, 65, of Bangor, worry that when one of them dies, the other will have to pay high estate taxes.

The retired couple have been together for more than 25 years and got married in Maine in May because “as seniors, they worried that they might not live to see the day when they could marry at home,” according to their lawsuit, filed July 9.

“Ed and David have talked about moving to another state where their marriage would be recognized and they would have more financial security,” the lawsuit says. “But they do not want to leave their home and community. They want to grow old together in the place where they met 25 years ago.”

Obergefell said that he and Arthur “would be thrilled if this turns into something bigger.”

“I’m honored that we could be at the start of this, and I’m sad that it took John’s health, his impending death, to generate this,” he said. “But simply put, it was the right thing to do.”

Judge orders Ohio to recognize gay marriage


Two Ohio men have filed a federal lawsuit alleging Ohio violates the U.S Constitution by denying legal recognition to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.

James Obergefell and John Arthur of Cincinnati filed the lawsuit in Cincinnati against Ohio’s governor, attorney general and the Cincinnati health department registrar, who files death certificates. The men, a couple of 20 years, took an emergency plane trip to Maryland to marry.

Arthur is ailing – he has ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – and the lawsuit specifically says the men want Arthur’s eventual death certificate to state that he was married to Obergefell. They asked for an expedited hearing because of Arthur’s health.

A federal judge on July 22 ordered the state to recognize the marriage, finding that the state ban ‘violates rights secured by the … United States Constitution in that same-sex couples married in jurisdictions where same sex marriages are valid who seek to have their out-of-state marriage accepted as legal in Ohio are treated differently than opposite sex couples who have been married in states where their circumstances allow marriage in that state but not in Ohio.”

However, Republican Ohio Attorney General Mark DeWine, who as a U.S. senator pushed for a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, has pledged to defend the anti-gay state law.

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