Looking Out: LGBT advocates say robocall ugliest incident of mixed election

Advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Maryland say they see Tuesday's elections as a mixed bag -- some good, some bad and some ugly.

Advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Maryland say they see Tuesday's elections as a mixed bag -- some good, some bad and some ugly.

Among the ugliest, according to advocates, was a disingenuous robocall sent last week to voters in Anne Arundel County by an unknown (or fake) group urging them to call the mother of a gay County Council candidate to thank him for coming out and supporting the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.


That law recently banned discrimination against transgender Marylanders in employment and other public accommodations. The recording says the law allows transgender people to go into any bathroom of their choosing "based on their confused gender identity."

Advocates believe it was sent to drum up anti-gay opposition to Patrick Armstrong's bid to become a councilman.

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, said she was alerted to the message -- left on the voicemail of an Equality Maryland supporter -- last week. The message lacked identifying information about the sender, required by law, and was confusing enough to make the supporter think it had come from Equality Maryland, Evans said.

"We were like, 'Yeah, that is definitely not us,'" Evans said.

Election officials said they have forwarded the matter to the state prosecutor's office.

Evans said opponents relying on unfounded fears about the Fairness for All Marylanders Act is "really unfair to voters."

Here's a further breakdown of the election from Evans' perspective.

The good: In total, 94 percent of the candidates endorsed by the political action committee of Equality Maryland were elected into office.

The group's candidate for governor, Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, was not among the victors, losing to Republican challenger Larry Hogan. But Evans said the group plans to take Hogan's "word for it" that he wants to represent all Marylanders, and welcomes the opportunity to work with him.

"Equality Maryland can't stop our agenda for equality and fairness based on who's in the governor's office. We didn't do it under Governor Ehrlich and we don't plan to do it under Hogan," Evans said. "We're going to try to find those areas where we can agree."

Evans said she invited Hogan to the group's brunch next week -- honoring Gov. Martin O'Malley for his support over the years -- and hopes he can make it.

Considering the wave of Republican support from voters this year, both in the state and nationally, the fact that Equality Maryland's slate of candidates -- who were 100 percent Democrats -- succeeded so heavily is a reminder that Maryland is, in fact, a largely Democratic state.

The bad: Evans lamented the loss of Democrat Del. John Olszewski Jr., a "stalwart" ally, to Republican Johnny Ray Salling in District 6. She also said several LGBT-friendly newcomers lost races in the state.

Others who have expressed anti-LGBT stances took office, including Michael Peroutka, who won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council over Armstrong. (Peroutka has said the robocall had nothing to do with him or his campaign.)

But in the past, Peroutka has referred to homosexuality as a "deathstyle" that "does not reproduce, so it's got to recruit your children."


Beyond new candidates, the state legislature's LGBT caucus has shrunken by two, Evans said. Del. Peter Murphy, a gay Democrat who has served in the legislature since 2007, won the commissioners' president race in Charles County. Del. Heather Mizeur, a lesbian Democrat from Montgomery County, leaves the legislature after her unsuccessful bid for governor.

"We didn't gain any openly LGBT folks in the General Assembly," Evans said.

The ugly: "Make no mistake that despite the incredible gains we have made, homophobia continues in Maryland," Evans said in a statement on Tuesday's elections for Equality Maryland's website. "In three local races opponents of openly gay candidates employed blatant anti-LGBT tactics to cast doubt and smear the gay candidates."

One of those instances of homophobia was the robocall, Evans said.

Another relates to mailers sent out in Charles County criticizing Murphy and claiming the Fairness for All Marylanders Act "requires our daughters to share a public restroom" with convicted criminals.

The third, Evans said, was anti-LGBT rhetoric used against gay Democratic candidate for Harford County Council Joe Smith, including in the local press. Smith lost to Republican Curtis L. Beulah.

"It was really troubling," Evans said. "In each of the cases, people really tried to use the candidates' sexual orientation as a negative for why voters shouldn't support them."

Evans said while she thinks it is unfortunate that people like Peroutka were elected, she was buoyed by the fact that, even in Republican-strong Anne Arundel County, many voters showed their disapproval of him.

"Really the story is that Patrick did as well as he did," she said, of Armstrong's garnering some 46 percent of the vote. "I think it showed that some of the voters in that district weren't falling for [the robocall], and were willing to cast their vote for an openly gay Democrat."