March 24, 2011 | by Kevin Walling
Holding the politicians accountable

As the former communications and development director for Equality Maryland, I’ve been following the marriage fight in Maryland very closely. In the wake of the vote to recommit the bill, our community is grappling with what went wrong and, of course, pointing fingers.

As someone who worked for two years to advance marriage equality and transgender antidiscrimination, I have a unique perspective on the fight.

The staff, board and volunteers of Equality Maryland are some of the finest people I know. They are dedicated, hard working individuals who put their personal lives on hold to advance equality for our families. Don’t believe me? Ask my ex-boyfriend.

Members of the LGBT General Assembly Caucus: Rich, Maggie, Heather, Anne, Bonnie, Mary, Luke and now Peter (Welcome, Peter, we always knew, but it’s great to have you!) are dedicated public servants who gave their all to pass this bill. Don’t believe me? Listen to the audio recordings of their floor speeches and try not to reach for the Kleenex.

Sam Arora and Tiffany Alston have no business serving in the House of Delegates. Your word is your bond. When you run as a marriage equality advocate, raise money from the LGBT community and then abandon your principles in the face of political pressure, you’re a coward. Don’t believe me? Google Benedict Arnold.

Thoughtful people in our community can disagree on strategy. That’s to be expected. I agree with Mark McLaurin, as Lou Chibbaro Jr. quoted him in his recent Blade article (“Strategic blunder of monstrous proportions,” March 16) saying that we should have called for a vote. I believe that we often let folks off the hook when they commit to us in private but then abandon us in the public square.

But to use McLaurin’s language, inflammatory comments like his are pure “poppycock.” Grandstanding does nothing to advance the fight for equality. What we need to do is take this time and regroup, lick our wounds and come back stronger next year. This should be a galvanizing moment for our community. We passed the bill out of the Senate. We came up a few votes short in the House. We have a governor who’s committed to signing the bill. No other state is in this same unique position.

Delegates on the fence should hear from us every single day. They should know the names of the gay middle school student in their district who is bullied for being different. They need to meet the lesbian moms living down the street raising four kids. They need to see first hand what it’s like to be kicked out of your home for being transgender.

The blame game will continue. But it in the end it really doesn’t accomplish anything. We will win this fight and anyone who disagrees is on the wrong side of history.

15 Comments
  • “Holding the politicians accountable”

    Uh huh…

    Anything to avoid holding ‘Equality’ Maryland accountable for the lies and deception that its been shovelling around in order to convince desperate trans people that the turd known as HB 235 is a pile of gold.

    “Grandstanding does nothing to advance the fight for equality.”

    And portraying unproven legal theories about trans coverage under existing law as concrete rights advance what? The prospects of ‘Equality’ Maryland-oids moving up to permanent employment at HRC after they screw Maryland trans people the way Liz Seaton did a decade ago?

  • Kevin, thanks for a great laugh. I needed that. Equality Maryland is a country club sweetie. They need to take the “civil rights organization” off of their banner. They were having victory parties through the legislative season and then they threw in the towel.

    Priceless.

  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    As someone who has stepped back and watched a lot of the commentary coming out of the decision to send the marriage bill back to committee what I find striking is that a lot of the people who have so much to say now did not seem to be out there doing the work. I have been to Equality Maryland phone nights to help call representatives and ask them to vote for the bill. Did I see you there? I think the answer is “no” for a lot of the people who are screaming the loudest. I also went to the lobby day this year and saw a lot of people who care deeply and are working really hard, including the staff that I met from Equality Maryland. When I talked to them I found out that some of them even moved here just to take a job to work for marriage because they care so much. I have been really sad to see they way they have been treated coming out of this. I know that they too are sad that we did not win this year. I for one am going to keep helping them win because all this complaining is just talk. It is going to take action to make sure that we get marriage.

  • I’m not going to speculate about the strategy eqMD employed for the Marriage bill. I wasn’t really involved but I can feel for the people who dedicated time, money volunteering fighting for marriage equality..only to be completely alienated and disenfranchised in the end.

    What I can comment on is the terrible way transgender people have been treated by eqMD. They were first uninformed, keep ignorant, deceived and finally censored and ignored by eqMD. That will never be forgotten by the whole LGBT community as more and more gays and lesbians are becoming aware of the way eqMD has mistreated trans people they are openly questioning and rebelling against EQMD, the people only days ago they trusted implicitly.

    All this begs the question. Who or what was calling the shots. You know who owns the purse strings? Well we all know the answer to that. HRC. Transgender people know exactly why HRC is so invested in this. The sooner they can make public accommodations a non issue the sooner they can get ENDA pushed passed.

    A lot of people who would rather that not be talked about pounce on me when I connect the two but please…. Barney’s bathroom bill come on. ENDA’s failure has always been about the bathroom.

  • I agree with Kevin.

    I believe in transgender rights and consider them critical, but people raising them any time any topic comes up, trying to make them the topic, is getting so old. It’s uncool to be trying to criticize and damage Equality Maryland at every turn (or jump on the bandwagon of those doing this) because of your viewpoint on HB235. It makes me discount (or just plain skip over) your opinion.

  • Yeah funny how the only people critiquing EQMD are trans people and former board members

    • Funny how trans people are the ones that ‘Equality’ Maryland openly lies to about what is actually covered by this turd of a bill.

      If Morgan Meneses-Pinochet told you that SB 116 was actually a marriage bill and you lobied for it, but later found out that it was just a domestic partnership registry bill and registrations therein would have no legal effect, wouldn’t you be a bit pissed?

      But I forgot…gay marriage is all that matters.

  • “I believe in transgender rights and consider them critical, but people raising them any time any topic comes up, trying to make them the topic, is getting so old. ”

    Older than letting gay marriage steamroll everything else – including trans rights in states that left trans people behind and, thereafter, instead of going back to add trans rights moved on to gay marriage?

    History shows that if we don’t bring the subject up – and keep forcing the issue anywhere and everywhere possible – the best we can expect is the garbage that ‘Equality’ Maryland is shovelling around in 2011. When we shut up we get Wisconsin 1982, Massachusetts 1989, etc.

  • Kevin Walling,

    If you were in the circle of the few who had input into the decision to Not Hold the Vote, then you are correctly a part of this failure, and I do not feel wrongly critical in saying so.

    I do however agree with moving this thing forward, and SPECIFICALLY with holding those Delegates accountable. Will you listen to strategies from those outside of your small group?

    Alston and Arora MUST hear from us that there MUST be a vote held, and within this year, and that THEY must be the ipitus in making this happen in order to redeem themselves, and to maintain their seats. Should Equality Maryland neglect or shy away from conveying this crucial, albeit difficult message, then Equality Maryland shall be guilty of a Second fatal misstep.

    Absent the return of this Bill to the floor from the Committee, the entire Committee MUST know that we shall endorse their opponents, and without fail. If Equality Maryland will not address this clearly and candidly with each Member of the Committee, then others shall rightfully criticize Equality Maryland, create alternate Organization, and take over the mission.

    • Hi Blue-Heron, I left my position at EQMD last Fall, so I was not involved in the decision making process this past session in Annapolis. Thanks for agreeing that we have got to keep this work moving forward. EQMD needs your help to keep the pressure on these key delegates. By lending your help you also ensure that your voice is heard in the decision making process. We will win – but we need you! All is not lost. Thank you, Kevin

  • Yeah funny how the only people critiquing EQMD are trans people and former board members

    Is the best way to get equal transgender rights wasting time tearing down the group you want to help you

    95% (guess – could be more) of the $$ going to EQMD is given to get marriage rights

    They abandon or sideline that priority = no $$ = no EQMD paid staff = nothing accomplished for anyone

    • “They abandon or sideline that priority = no $$ = no EQMD paid staff = nothing accomplished for anyone”

      Nothing is better than a turd masquerading as a ‘trans rights’ bill.

  • “then others shall rightfully criticize Equality Maryland, create alternate Organization, and take over the mission” – you are in la la land. go ahead, do it. it ain’t so easy and that’s why it hasn’t been done and won’t be done. EQMD can barely get $$ and volunteers/staff. the LGBTs in MD are apathetic. they like to complain on the internet but not much more.

  • Wait a minute— you agree with Mark McLaurin AND you think it was the politicians’ fault? Welllll, if I had been a gay/lgbt pol that day, and the HRC and Victory fund (who gave me biiiiggg bukks and helped me get elected) called me to say “we, your financial backers, want you to do XYZ”, then, well, I would do XYZ (if i was a pol, which i am NOT, thank gawd). Welcome to the problems with our capitalist political system… all your pennies accrue, are given to pols, and then HRC or victory fund tell them what it’s for! Ugh. Yuk. Gross… So much for “representation” in this modern age. I vote for instantaneous, electronic, direct-democracy voting – my OWN representation, ala switzerland. Joe Solmonese does NOT represent me, America, only I do :-\

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