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With same-sex marriage now available, state to end benefits for domestic partners: State says change is needed to avoid lawsuits
By Michael Dresser and Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun
May 3, 2013
The O'Malley administration has notified state employees in same-sex relationships that they won't be able to include domestic partners in their health insurance anymore.
If they want coverage, they'll have to get married.
The policy change is the result of the new Maryland law allowing same-sex marriage, which took effect Jan. 1. The thinking is that offering health coverage to an unmarried same-sex partner doesn't make sense anymore, officials said, particularly since an unmarried heterosexual partner doesn't have the same right.
But the move by the administration — which introduced domestic partner benefits in 2009 and championed marriage equality last year — has drawn polite dissent from some of the administration's staunchest allies.
"It's really not the most equitable thing to be doing right now," said Carrie Evans, executive director of the gay and lesbian rights group Equality Maryland.
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura A. Neuman has launched an investigation into allegations that county Police Chief Larry Tolliver used homophobic slurs and retaliated against officers whose testimony led to her predecessor's criminal conviction for misconduct.
County Councilman Jamie Benoit called for the investigation in a letter to Neuman in which he recounted allegations from officers that Tolliver moved the detectives to less desirable positions and used the anti-gay term "fag."
Tolliver denied any wrongdoing. He told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that the personnel changes were not demotions, but part of a broader effort to fix the department after more than two years of turmoil stemming from former County Executive John R. Leopold's misuse of his police security detail.
Benoit, the most vocal council critic of Leopold, wrote to Neuman that Tolliver was "exacting a bizarre and unreasoned form of retribution against the very officers that led to the removal of the most corrupt elected official in our county's history."
"No one should stand for this type of behavior," he added. "In this case, no elected official should stand by idly and watch yet another police chief wrack the department with more ethical misconduct."
The county reviews all personnel complaints as a matter of policy. Neuman, who was appointed county executive by the council in February after Leopold resigned, declined to comment on what she said was a personnel matter. But she added that "there's a zero tolerance policy as far as discrimination."
"We don't know what the facts are yet because it's just too soon," she said.
Tolliver said in an interview that the officers who testified against Leopold were among many who were reassigned after he took over the agency last year.
"It bothers me that they think it's all about them," he said. "I came in to a mess in this department."
Benoit said the allegations about the anti-gay comments came from a personnel complaint, which has not been made public.
Tolliver said he supports "a culture of diversity." Asked about the allegations, he said, he does not recall "everything I've ever said."
"Do I joke around with the officers? Yes," he said.
"I'm not a homophobic," Tolliver added. "I'm not going to question anyone's sexual orientation. It's none of my business, and it's a personal issue."
Benoit wrote in his letter that the author of the personnel complaint alleged that Tolliver "referred to a person as a 'rump ranger'" — which Benoit described as "derogatory slang used to describe a homosexual male."
Benoit wrote that the complaint author also alleged that Tolliver looked at a photo of an officer and remarked, "I didn't know that you were a fag."
Benoit wrote that the complaint was filed Monday by one of the detectives assigned to Leopold's security detail. The officer was among five who testified during Leopold's criminal trial that the two-term county executive had used his taxpayer-funded security detail to perform campaign tasks and to drain his urinary catheter bag.
Leopold, a former state legislator in Maryland and Hawaii, was found guilty in January of two counts of criminal misconduct in office and resigned as county executive.
A representative from the Fraternal Order of Police union confirmed that an officer filed a complaint against Tolliver on Monday but declined to name the officer or discuss the nature of the complaint. Calls to the county's personnel office were not returned.
The five officers who testified in the Leopold trial have been reassigned from the intelligence division that oversaw the county executive's security.
In one case, Benoit wrote, the detective was told his position as lieutenant had been eliminated. A month later someone else was given that same title.
Leopold appointed Tolliver, a retired former state police superintendent, to take over the county Police Department last summer after the retirement of then-Chief James S. Teare under duress.
Detectives on Leopold's security detail told a grand jury last year that they complained about the executive to Teare, but Teare didn't intervene to stop the misconduct.
The Maryland state prosecutor's office investigated, and police unions and then the County Council issued votes of no confidence in Teare. His retirement ended the state probe; he was not charged with any offense.
Carrie Evans, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality Maryland, said the allegations of slurs by Tolliver, if true, are "disappointing."
But she added that the alleged attitudes are "not unexpected" in the law enforcement profession.
"Many remain closeted within the force in fear of having this kind of treatment and not having a fellow officer back you up," Evans said.
She said the allegations are troubling because they concern the chief. If true, she said, they give "implicit permission to anyone in the force to say those things."
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun
This is the first in a series from testimony supporting SB 449 - the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013. Thanks to Ms Byrd for sharing her moving story.
My name is Mattie Jean Byrd,
As parents my late husband and I have tried to provide our children with a decent education as well as love and support. I raised Lauren along with my other five children. Lauren has two sisters and three brothers. Lauren is my youngest. Never in our wildest imagination did my husband and I think we would be parents of a transgender child. In truth, we didn’t know what transgender was. Our prayer was for healthy children, ten toes and fingers. However, I knew there was a possibility that we could have a child with a disability, and I also knew we would love our children no matter what.
I’m a mother of six healthy children, now six responsible productive adults. One of my children happens to be transgender. My Transgender daughter Lauren is a transgender advocate in Maryland. Henceforth, I guess I’m advocate mom of a transgender child. At seventy four, activism is not want I thought I’d be doing at this point in my life, but you never stop being a mother.
So here we are; it is heartbreaking to be a parent of a transgender child, because of discrimination and abuse inflected upon transgender people. It is difficult to see your child struggle through life, because they’re transgendered. Especially, when you know they’ve done nothing to deserve it. My late husband and I raised our children to be decent respectable adults, to love their neighbors, and to help others whenever possible. I know we have seceded in doing so. The proof is evident in the way our children live. I’m proud to say Lauren has dedicated her life to helping others. I am here today to challenge you all to put laws in place that well protect my child as well as others from discrimination and abuse.
No one should be discriminated against because of who they are: African American, gay, lesbian, transgender, religious or not religious. Everyone should be afforded descent housing, education and a good job, regardless of if you're transgender or not. Please protect the rights of all Americans. My transgender child included.