September 15, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
O’Malley headlines fundraiser for Equality Md.
Martin O'Malley

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley attended a fundraiser last week for Equality Maryland. He has pledged to introduce a marriage equality bill next year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler were among more than a dozen state elected officials and more than 200 people who turned out on Sept. 7 for a fundraiser for Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT advocacy group.

The event, held in the Chevy Chase, Md., Town Hall, pulled in $35,000 in cash and pledges that were expected to bring the total raised to $72,000, according to Equality Maryland board member Lisa Polyak.

Polyak and Equality Maryland board member Patrick Wojahn said the fundraiser was billed as a celebration to honor the state’s elected officials who support legislation to legalize marriage for state-sex couples.

O’Malley, Brown, Gansler, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett each reiterated their commitment to work hard for the approval by the Maryland Legislature in 2012 of a same-sex marriage bill, Polyak said.

“They were all waxing enthusiastically about how marriage equality has support in Maryland and how they’re going to put the authority of their respective offices behind it,” she said.

A same-sex marriage bill died in the Maryland Legislature earlier this year after it cleared the Senate but was withdrawn from the House of Delegates when backers determined it lacked the votes needed to pass.

Financial problems and disagreements among the board and staff following the marriage bill fight led to the dismissal of Equality Maryland’s executive director and the layoff of nearly all of the group’s staff. Polyak and Wojahn said on Friday, Sept. 9, that stepped up fundraising, a community outreach effort, and a planned expansion of the board has reinvigorated the organization.

According to Polyak, a new, full-time executive director will be hired in late October or early November following a nationwide search. Wojahn said the names of between 10 and 15 new members of the boards of Equality Maryland and the Equality Maryland Foundation would be announced this week.

In a related development, a coalition of groups working with Equality Maryland for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill announced on Sept. 9 that the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People became the newest member of the steering committee of the coalition, Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

“Having the NAACP on board is a welcome addition to the coalition working to win marriage equality in the Free State,” said Sultan Shakir, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

“The NAACP’s long history of working for equality and fairness for all will be instrumental in harnessing the supportive voices in the African-American community and throughout Maryland,” said Shakir, who also serves as a field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign.

“We believe gay and lesbian couples have the same values as everyone else,” said Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the NAACP’s Baltimore branch. “They want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love and build a loving stable family. So it is only right that committed gay and lesbian couples be given the opportunity to marry as everyone else.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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