Music, dance, hope at Pride 2007

The Baltimore Sun

Katie Rickman and T.J. Moyer sat on a blanket under a big oak tree yesterday, enjoying the shade, old friends and a new addition to their family: their 13-month-old son, Harrison Moyer-Rickman.

"I've been here almost every year since 1995, except last year, when I'd just given birth," said Rickman as she jumped up to chase Harrison, who'd crawled off into the grass.

The two women and their son, who live in Lauraville, were spending the afternoon in Druid Hill Park at Baltimore Pride 2007, an event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland.

The event, which included the Pride Parade in Mount Vernon on Saturday, is in its 32nd year and was expected to attract more than 30,000 people, according to organizers.

The festival featured vendors selling everything from lemonade to leatherwear. The headlining performance was BETTY, the all-girl band that produced the theme song for the Showtime program The L Word.

A local gay and lesbian square dancing club, the Chesapeake Squares, held demonstrations under the park's Chinese pavilion. Brian Jarvis and Kent Forrester, members of the group from Silver Spring, called out moves as dancers do-si-doed and promenaded.

"Traditionally, the left-hand dancer is in the boy's role," said Jarvis, taking a break from the microphone. "But you can be a woman or a man in either role here."

Forrester added that the club is open to all and that dancing comes second to socializing. "Square dancing," he said, "is friendship set to music."

In addition to enjoying the festivities, same-sex couples at the festival said they hope they will soon have something else to celebrate: a repeal of Maryland's ban on same-sex marriage.

In December, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard a case brought by a group of same-sex couples saying the law banning such marriages is at odds with the state constitution. The state took the case to the Court of Appeals after a lower court found that the ban violates the state's equal rights amendment.

"The gay and lesbian community in Maryland is holding its breath waiting for a decision from the court," said Meredith Curtis, the director of public outreach for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which is a plaintiff in the case. "The decision could come any day now."

If the law is overturned, she said, it would make Maryland the second state behind Massachusetts to legalize gay marriage.

Other states, including Vermont and New Jersey, have legalized civil unions, but critics say civil unions don't provide the full legal protection of marriage.

Sara Ryan, the field organizer for Equality Maryland, a group that advocates for gay rights, said many laws and regulations specify marriage as a requirement for receiving benefits and rights. For example, she said, some couples in civil unions have been rejected for spousal health insurance coverage.

"Only marriage provides full protection under the law," she said.

Takia Foskey, one of the plaintiffs in the case being reviewed by the appeals court, volunteered yesterday at the Equality Maryland booth.

She said she became a plaintiff after St. Agnes Hospital refused to let her see her partner, Jo Rabb, when Rabb was hospitalized in 2003, because the two were not legally related.

To avoid similar situations in the future, the two women would like to marry, but must wait for the court's decision. "This is the hard part, because we don't know when the decision will come down," Foskey said.

Rickman and Moyer said they would also like to be legally married. They had a religious ceremony, and Moyer adopted Harrison, but they say they lack certain legal protections.

"There are all these little things - like we had to pay for her to adopt Harrison," Rickman said. "And if I die, I want to her to get my property, but legally we are strangers, so I have to make a will that says all of that."

"We are a family," she continued, "and the more you are committed to someone, the more you want it protected."

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