Thursday, December 06, 2007
Transwoman Seeks To Succeed Lawmaker
Beyer could replace Maryland delegate who died
By JOSHUA LYNSEN | Dec 4, 2:44 PM
from the Washington Blade
A transgender woman is among the candidates seeking to succeed a Maryland state legislator who died last week.
Dana Beyer, who lost her bid last year to become a state delegate, could become the nation's first transgender state lawmaker if chosen Dec. 11 to fill the vacant Montgomery County seat.
"It's not how I wanted to become a delegate, but it is what it is and you make the best of what you have and you move forward," she said. "And that's how you honor the memory of those past."
Beyer is among the candidates vying to succeed Democratic Del. Jane Lawton, who died Nov. 29 after giving a presentation before a federal agency. Lawton, 63, joined the Maryland House of Delegates in 2005.
"I always wanted to serve with Jane," Beyer said. "I didn't want to replace her."
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, which is collecting applications for the House position through Monday, will choose Lawton's successor during a Dec. 11 meeting. There is no public vote.
Simon Atlas, the Central Committee's treasurer, estimated that five to 10 candidates would seek to succeed Lawton. Among the applicants this week were Alfred Carr, a precinct vice chair, and Oscar Ramirez, a Central Committee member.
"I'd like to think the Central Committee will replace a strong woman with another strong woman," Beyer said. "I think that's what June would have wanted, but it's not my call."
Lawton was a staunch defender of gay civil rights. She scored perfectly on Equality Maryland's 2006 candidate questionnaire, pledging to oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and support a bill to make marriage licenses gender neutral, among other stances.
"I believe that same-sex couples and all persons have a right to enjoy the same civil rights under the law and that sexual preferences should be respected and supported," she told the Blade earlier this year.
Dan Furmansky, executive director at Equality Maryland, said Lawton will be missed.
"She was a special, warm, caring person who very personally supported LGBT equality and never failed to show up for a big Equality Maryland benefit or event to lend her support," he said. "I'll miss her hugs. She gave great hugs."
But he said Beyer, an Equality Maryland board member, would bring an important voice to the legislature.
"Dana Beyer is without a doubt an exceptional candidate for the House of Delegates who would bring an advocacy background, county policy experience, and years of practice as a physician to her work in the General Assembly," he said. "She would be the first statewide transgender elected official in the nation and would completely alter the dialogue about who transgender people are and what they contribute to our communities. "
Beyer, who last year placed fifth among eight Democratic House candidates competing for three District 18 seats, also scored perfectly on Equality Maryland's questionnaire.
But her campaign was not limited to gay issues. A retired doctor, Beyer has called for universal, government-funded health care. She also has sought improved public education and advocated for workers to earn a living wage.
Beyer said this week that her 2006 campaign issues remain a priority to her.
"Those are still the issues that matter," she said. "I've been working down at the local level, and I think the state can truly make a difference."
Although her 2006 campaign web site remains active, Beyer said she would not heavily campaign for the vacant seat.
She also noted the expedited pace by which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is working to fill the seat likely would preclude others from campaigning.
"The reason this is happening so quickly is because this is the last regularly scheduled meeting of the committee before the regular [state legislative] session begins next month," she said. "Considering the tragedy that has led to this, that may be a good thing, because it doesn't allow for any campaigning or lobbying."
Beyer said she knows many of the Central Committee's 23 members from local party functions and would "be in contact" with them again before next week's vote, but had no plans to mount an official campaign.
"I don't think there's time to do anything," she said. "And I don't think it would be appropriate to do any more."
Beyer, who works for Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg and worked to help pass a local measure last month that bars discrimination against transgender workers and residents, said she might make passing reference to her distinction as a transgender woman at next week's meeting.
"It isn't an issue and it shouldn't be an issue," she said. "I'm just going to do what I've been doing. This is a very strange 'campaign' — campaign in quotes. It's nothing I ever planned on doing. I'm just going to represent myself as best I can.
"I just hope there are 12 people on Tuesday night who think I can be the best representative for the district."
Joshua Lynsen can be reached at jlynsen@washblade. com.