March 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Strategic blunder of monstrous proportions’

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The decision to cancel a March 11 vote on a same-sex marriage bill in the Maryland House of Delegates was a mistake that could hurt rather than help the chances for passing the bill within the next several years, according to Maryland-based advocates who lobbied for the bill.

The advocates who expressed this view, some of whom spoke on condition that they not be identified, said at least four national LGBT groups put pressure on lawmakers through Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT group, to withdraw the bill rather than risk a losing vote.

One of the advocates called the national groups and their political operatives who came to Maryland to lobby for the bill well intentioned but unfamiliar with the nuances and “rhythms” of the Maryland Legislature.

“I think this was a strategic blunder of monstrous proportions,” said Mark McLaurin, political director of Maryland’s Local 500 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which lobbied for the bill.

McLaurin, a gay man who has lobbied the Maryland Legislature for progressive causes for more than 15 years, said many insiders familiar with the legislature don’t think a losing vote by a close margin would hurt the bill’s chances in the future.

On the other hand, McLaurin and others who favored taking a vote on the marriage bill said the legislature has a history of not taking up highly controversial bills two years in a row. McLaurin said he fears that the bill won’t come back for a vote until 2015, even though Speaker of the House Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) said he would try to bring the measure back in 2012.

Busch said supporters appeared to fall just a few votes shy of the 71 votes needed to pass the bill in the 141-member House. However, he said wavering delegates might have chosen to vote “yes,” raising the possibility that the bill could have passed.

Several knowledgeable sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed with McLaurin’s assessment.

“Gill and HRC decided it was detrimental to the larger movement to have the vote go down,” one source said. “Gays and lesbians in Maryland deserved a debate and a vote on legislation that we waited years for.”

Another source criticized Busch’s handling of the bill.

Maryland House of Delegates Majority Leader Kumar Barve and Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“[Speaker Michael] Busch could have squeezed harder but didn’t. This is a new House of Delegates and this man didn’t bother to take the temperature of the new House of Delegates. I was shocked. I thought House leadership was more strategic, intelligent and powerful than this and it all evaporated.

“God forbid we put our swing vote Democrats on the line to take a vote for our families. Or maybe the Speaker has lost control of his chamber.”

There was also criticism of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who the sources faulted for not taking a more public stand in support of the bill.

“O’Malley stopped by Friday for a photo op with marriage supporters,” one source said. “What a vacant gesture at the 11th hour. You couldn’t write an op-ed the week before?”

The Civil Marriage Protection Act won approval in the Maryland Senate earlier this month. It died last Friday for at least this year when the House of Delegates approved by voice vote a motion to send it back to committee.

All of the bill’s sponsors, including seven openly gay members of the House of Delegates, appeared to support the motion, a development that stunned LGBT activists watching the proceedings from the visitors’ gallery.

The motion to recommit the bill to committee came after supporters and opponents engaged in an emotional, two-and-a-half hour debate over the bill.  Most of the activists for and against the bill watching from the galleries didn’t know that the bill’s sponsors had decided beforehand to cancel the vote.

McLaurin said he learned from those attending strategy meetings that the eight-member LGBT Caucus of the legislature was divided over whether to postpone the House vote.

The caucus includes Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), and House of Delegates members Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington, and Luke Clippinger, each Democrats from Baltimore; Heather Mizeur, Bonnie Cullison, and Anne Kaiser, each Democrats from Montgomery County; and Peter Murphy, a Democrat from Charles County.

Spokespersons for Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT group that led the lobbying effort for the bill, and officials with the national groups Freedom to Marry and Human Rights Campaign defended the decision to withdraw the bill.

They said the decision was made jointly by the bill’s lead sponsors, including the one gay male and six lesbian delegates, who determined it was better to postpone the vote than to risk a losing vote, which they said would be perceived as a defeat.

“This is a strategic effort to give ourselves more time to make the case and win,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “And all of us believe we can win. It’s just a matter of nailing down the votes and getting there.”

HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz said the decision to cancel the vote came after it became clear that supporters didn’t have the votes to pass it.

“This was a shared decision by all the stakeholders – Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT Caucus, Gill Action, Freedom to Marry, and HRC,” he said. “It was the consensus belief that the best way to win marriage in Maryland was by a delay and not by losing a vote.”

Officials with Gill Action, a philanthropic group founded by gay businessman Tim Gill in Colorado that funds LGBT rights causes, did not return a call seeking comment.

An official with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Robin Brand, also pushed for postponing the vote, activists familiar with the legislature said. Brand told the Blade she discussed the issue with the gay delegates in the Victory Fund’s role of working with openly gay elected officials. She said she left it up to them to decide on whether or not a vote should be taken.

McLaurin, a former member of the Equality Maryland board, said the advocates who wanted the vote to go forward believe it would have been worth “a roll of the dice” to determine if supporters had the 71 votes needed to pass the bill.

“In the worst case scenario we would have come up two or three votes short,” he said. “And I think that a loss by two or three votes would be much more galvanizing to the community of supporters that we’re going to need to rally and accomplish this goal.”

McLaurin added, “Either way it was going to get billed as a failure. I’d rather have on record who’s with us and who’s against us.”

Another former Equality Maryland board member, David Toth, wrote in a Facebook posting that the group was deleting messages left on its own Facebook page that were posted by a large number of supporters who expressed outrage over the decision not to have a vote on the bill.

“Anyone who is asking questions of EqMD or its staff is having their posts deleted like crazy,” he wrote. “After donating thousands of dollars and working on the board for over six years I simply find this appalling.”

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Wolfson of Freedom to Marry cautioned that a public fight over the decision not to have a vote could hurt efforts to bring the bill back next year.

“This is a temporary pause in the voting and it’s not a pause in the work,” he said. “So we don’t need finger pointing and recriminations, we need redoubling the effort to win.”

Although Equality Maryland, led by executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, was billed as the lead organization calling the shots, insiders say field workers from the national groups like Freedom to Marry, HRC and Gill Action Fund far outnumbered Equality Maryland’s staffers working the halls of the legislature in Annapolis.

It was the national groups, rather than Equality Maryland, that had the ear of supportive lawmakers, including the LGBT Caucus members, during the days leading up to the scheduled vote on the bill in the House, McLaurin and other insiders said.

In a March 10 e-mail sent to LGBT Caucus members and other lawmakers supporting the bill, representatives of Freedom to Marry, Gill Action and HRC urged the lawmakers to postpone the vote.

“With the rights of so many Marylanders on the line, we wanted to flag our serious concern about going to a floor vote tomorrow when it’s not been confirmed we have 71 votes,” the e-mail says. “Various counts have us at 69 or 70 but not 71 or beyond.”

The e-mail adds, “The decision on whether to ask the leadership to move forward or postpone the vote rests with our openly LGBT legislators and other sponsors (in consultation with EQMD) who know their colleagues far better than we do, and who have so courageously led the way.”

The e-mail was signed by Bill Smith and Sarah Vaughn, national political director and deputy political director of Gill Action; Marty Rouse and Sultan Shakir, the lead officials at HRC’s field office; and Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry.

In a separate e-mail sent the next day to most of the same people, HRC’s Rouse warned of serious political consequences if a vote on the marriage bill were to be taken.

“I plead with you to please delay this vote,” he said. “It would be devastating to suffer a huge loss. There will be vitriol and pain that may take years to soothe.”

Rouse said he also feared that a losing vote would damage relationships between the LGBT community and lawmakers who voted against the bill.

“I am sure that relationships are already frayed, but, if there are impassioned speeches on the floor, and tears shed, and we still lose, those relationships will be damaged even more. The air in the chamber will be toxic for months if not years,” he said.

McLaurin said at least some of the strained relations that Rouse mentioned have already come about, in part, because of the impassioned debate on the House floor that took place on March 11. He said he was puzzled over why those making the decision chose to have the debate and not go one step further to allow a vote to take place.

According to McLaurin, Speaker Busch left it up to the bill’s supporters and Equality Maryland to make the final call on whether to have a vote.

“From what I’ve been told by people in the know, he said, ‘What’s your pleasure? I’ll defer to you.’”

“And so from my understanding, there was a lot of pressure from the national organizations not to pull the trigger on a vote unless you are certain you had 71 votes because apparently it would demoralize our [same-sex marriage] efforts in Rhode Island and New York,” said McLaurin.

“I say poppycock. Pulling the bill from the floor is a defeat every bit as much as a losing vote is,” he said.

McLaurin said he thinks some of the national LGBT officials pushing for a delay in the Maryland vote had a fundamental misunderstanding that the Maryland House of Delegates would act like the New York State Senate acted in 2008, when it defeated a same-same marriage bill by a 38-24 vote.

Most supporters of the New York bill thought the vote would be much closer. Gay State Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan) said he believed he had lined up enough votes to pass the measure. But when a roll-call vote started, a few wavering senators voted no, causing what observers called a cascading or “avalanche” effect, prompting others whose support was shaky to vote no.

McLaurin said such a development could not happen in the Maryland House of Delegates because all votes are cast electronically at the same time. No one knows who votes which way until the final tally is released seconds after the votes are cast. Pages on the floor then distribute a printout showing how the delegates voted.

“That’s why one of my underlying themes is you’ve got to know the Maryland Legislature,” he said. “We can’t have national groups fly in from L.A. and New York and train in from D.C. and conduct this campaign because we’re fundamentally different. We’re a different body.”

If some of the national group representatives had been in Annapolis at the time the legislature debated a highly contentious bill to repeal the state’s death penalty in 2007 or during several abortion related debates in the 1990s they would have seen a great reluctance to revisit these issues a second time, McLaurin said.

“What I fear is next year there’s just not going to be the stomach to do this again,” he said in discussing the marriage bill. “If you listened to the debate on the floor, everyone spoke of how deeply divided the House was, how deeply emotional this was, how it frayed relationships, how people weren’t speaking to each other.

“Do you think they will have the stomach to do that again next year without any reasonable expectation of a different outcome because they’re still pitching the same ideas to the same audience?”

“No one would be happier to be wrong about this than me,” he said. “But I just don’t think that I am. And I know I’m not alone. Some of the chief strategists behind this bill feel the same way I do.”

Wolfson of Freedom to Marry disputes that assessment.

“Anyone who is making comments to you or to anyone else suggesting that somehow this is over and it’s now a cause for finger pointing has failed to understand that it’s not over,” he said. “We’re in the midst of the work and we all should keep our eye on the prize of doing what we can to round up the last few votes and win.”

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

  • Wow – I’m surprised the Blade would publish this. What we have here is the sour grapes of two former EQMD board members who appear to not like the loss of control that results from them no longer being on the board. Had these bozos been professional, they would have handled this in another way. But, hey, each to his own. The one thing EVERYONE agrees on, even these public whiners, is that WE DID NOT HAVE THE VOTES TO WIN. Period. What we need to focus our every thought and effort on is what went wrong that we did not have or could not get the votes and how to change that. Therein, there may be blame to go around, to EQMD, the LGBT Caucus, the National Partners, House leadership, and (guess who) US, THE GAY COMMUNITY IN MARYLAND. We didn’t get it done and needed to do better. All of us. Let’s not let McLaurin and Toth (who are these guys anyway? and why do we care what they say – they didn’t accomplish gay marriage while they were running EQMD or have anything close to a winning or better strategy) distract us from that because they want to settle a personal score or think they are smarter than those actually involved. Now, how are we going to obtain the 71 votes we need?

    p.s. I personally disagree with McLaurin’s assessment. I think we would have lost by significantly more than 1 or 2 votes and it would have been crushing to us all emotionally. I also think it would have been next to impossible to get those no votes back to a yes anytime soon. In addition, Marylanders would have very good reason to be outraged at a marriage equality coming back up again when it was already resolved definitively. Most people, even those who were not necessarily anti-equality, thought that our bill was a waste of time for the legislature in this economy. We would be the evil advocates for the gay agenda that people think we are insisting that the bill come up again a year or two or three after it was struck down.

    • Do you find it ironic at all that you are signed in with just your first name but you are asking who am I ??? I’ll answer you, I’m Mark J. McLaurin from Baltimore, MD and you are ???

    • @Jennifer, I would suggest you look at the article again. I had not spoken to anyone at the Blade about this decision. The only part of the article that has my name in it, deals with the censorship on the EqMD facebook, which the Blade took directly off the site, not from any type of interview. While I do disagree with the decision, it is the decision that was made and we need to continue to move forward in our fight.

      However EqMD is supposed to represent the community, and by not releasing a statement as to the background into why they made the decision (there are many ways of thinking) they are not helping the debate. If you look at the items in this article about my post, I was, and still am, looking for a simple answer to two main question: 1. what was the thinking behind the decision and 2. Why are non-abrasive posts deleted form their site just because they are of a different point of view? A healthy debate is always good. I am not talking about crude, destructive, and abrasive comments, I understand removing those. But to remove it simply because it is a difference of opinion is wrong.

      As for your comment that I may be disgruntled, you should speak to Morgan herself, or talk to Lisa Polyak (vice Chair of the C4), or Patrick Wojhan (Chair of the C3). I am still in continuing support of the organization. So my suggestion is to get your facts straight before you post about someone. It is OK to disagree and have healthy questions and debate. And I will continue to push EqMD to be more community orientated and to do better.

      Dave Toth

      • Alright. I guess really the blame should go to the Blade for stirring the pot here, but some people gave them the broth, carrots, and chicken. How does that move us forward? Here we are all arguing with each other and things are inflamed instead of everyone collectively working to accomplish the change we want. It’s disappointing.

    • Do you think there weren’t a lot of gay couples crushed by not having a vote? It’s about damm time these elected officials were on the record for a change.

  • We had a good shot…our moment in time…and we missed it. It’ll come again yeah but we can’t totally control when. That’s disappointing & angering. But in our disappointment & anger we’re now going to eat our own? I agree…not productive at this point at all. What is to gain.

    Good point…this is the farthest we have come…out of Senate Jud Cmmt and Senate approval and out of House Jud Cmmt.

    Easy to Monday Morning Quarterback when Equality Maryland didn’t even get it out of any committee under these Board Members’ leadership. Nobody will ever know if letting the vote would have been better. Shouldn’t harp on that too long. Let’s pivot…now…to getting the votes instead of wasting time on drama.

    Questions: did partnering w/ Natl Partners help us/did partnering w/ them influence the outcome for the negative in MD. was EQMD competent to do this type of legislative wrangling/if not, who do we need to hire to make it happen/will the local (or Natl) LGBT community give $$ to make that happen. how can we influence the churches & black community. what are the 3-5 biggest things that went wrong (e.g., freshman delegates)/how can we course correct. can we anticipate other obstacles that might be unseen as of yet.

    • How about equating Matthew Sheppard’s beating and murder, teen suicide, bullying and beating, college student jumping off a bridge, transgender rape and murder to the bigot who thinks that gays don’t suffer anywhere close to a black person. Emmett Burns’ comments were a disgrace as is he.

    • Here’s one Virginian who’s thrilled to see the progress that Maryland is making towards marriage equality, even if the bill didn’t make it across the goal line this year. The degree of progress is remarkable, and cause for inspiration even here in much more difficult terrain.

      But I am disappointed in the Blade for stirring needless controversy by rushing an article into print without obtaining all sides of the story; it reads like blame-mongering, not good reporting and analysis. The headline, “Strategic blunder of monstrous proportions,” belies any sense of balance. That tone then inspired recriminations, not to mention some highly suspect logic, and defensiveness, none of which is productive.

      Let’s hear all sides of the story next time. And, as Robert suggests, let’s return to constructive evaluation of how to get the job done rather than counterproductive second-guessing and, in the comments, some disturbing name-calling and speculation.

  • This is all a red herring! Focus on the black constituents and churches. We need a new approach with them! Focus on booting the clear emphatic no’s in the legislature and have conversations with those who wavered or were slight no’s. And we need more from O’Malley and our everyday gays on the street!

  • Former board members of Equality Maryland and others who claim to be “insiders” were not involved in discussions with the Speaker’s office and the LGBT Caucus about this bill. These people are portraying an entirely inaccurate picture of the events surrounding the vote to recommit. If this paper wants to report facts, as opposed to speculation from people without relevant knowledge who obviously have bones to pick, then its reporters and editors should make an attempt to speak with those who actually worked on this bill and were involved in the decisions at issue.

    This article takes the opinions of at most two identified individuals and reports their opinions as fact. That is irresponsible.

    Chuck Butler, Chair, Equality Maryland

    • Chuck, when Eq Md’s staff and board want to talk on the record, we’re all ears. Nothing irresponsible about this story.

      • Kevin – as acting chair of the c3 board, I’m available to speak any time. I know Lou knows how to contact me, and I never heard from him before this article was printed.

      • As we discussed — after you ran this article and as the print edition was going to press — we’ll comment on the record in an Op Ed for next week’s edition. Thanks for agreeing to run the Op Ed. I am not aware of any efforts that you or Lou made to contact Equality Maryland about this piece before you ran it.

    • @ Chuck Butler, As you can see in this article, I did not claim to be an “insider.” I did not even speak to the Blade on this issue. They did pull a posting I made on the EqMD Face Book site asking why EqMD was deleting information that is not defaming or crude, it was a simple question. I stand by that as EqMD has still not released a statement to the community about either the decission or the censorship. While I do disagree with the decission, it is done and we still have wrork to do. But to make claims that any other part of this article came from me are completly false.

      EqMD should remember it represents the community in Maryland and is responsible to the community. You need to be more transpartent and let the community know why decisions are made. The community (are your donors) Don;t you feel your donors have a right to this information.

      You may want to rethink how you are wording your comments, especially representing as the Chair of EqMD.

    • Aside from being inaccurate, I’ve had numerous conversations with the Speaker’s office AnD individual members of the LGBT caucus, “leadership” requires allowing debate on strategy and fostering an environment where People can remain supportive even while disagreeing- instead – throwing poorly aimed pot shots at your own team members is a large part of the reason you , yourself, have been repeatedly passed over when you sought the top job at EQMD- sometimes leadership requires knowing you aren’t the right leader for a Particular time and Place…….

      • Aaaaand everyone is proving my point. Looks at where this has gone and quickly, which shows that really there was all of this stuff underneath it at the get go. This article (& those who gave to it IMO) stirred a pot that is not resulting in anything productive. There were better methods that could have gotten everyone on the same team and solving problems, including dealing with errors that were made.

    • It’s more like EQMD does what they want and never holds public forums. Time for you and the legislators to be accountable to the voters

  • Please tell me that Evan Wolfson whom I respect does not REALLY believe that Marc Solomon or Marty Rouse are good strategists or were truly the reason why we won the fight to save marriage equality in Massachusetts? Evan if you believe what they and Gay Inc. sold as the Massachusetts Miracle, you must be drinking from the same tap as Charlie Sheen!

    Instead of hiring the Barney Fyfes of the Marriage Equality Movement, why not look to the key strategists that won Massachusetts, one being Arline Isaacson of the MGLPC. She was excluded from the Maine fight and it seems you cannot seem to understand the strategy power that Arline and those around her have?

    Instead Marc Solomon? The guy who went on YouTube only months after EQCA hired him to reverse Prop 8 and laid out with a map and pointer for millions to see what his ground strategy was? In which regions in CA, we needed more work done and how many hires EQCA would be sending and where?

    God help us!

    • Wahh wahh wahh again from Tom. Tom “I know better and I can do better” Tom seriously? I see your whining all over the web. Don’t like the strategy then go set up your own organization for political action in a state and make marriage equality a reality instead of just Knowing Thy Neighbor.

      Monday morning quarterbacking is not going to help. You were not there. Don’t like the strategy used, or have better ones after the fact, then go run one yourself.

      • We did Chris, it was called and it did help to make marriage equality a reality in Massachusetts. And many of us who had to deal with Marc and Marty during that process certainly have the right to suggest that others should have been called into the mix.
        EQMD’s HB 235 also is up for review.

  • All this delay has done is give those opposed to the bill a chance to say it has been defeated, like Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio did in an email to her constituents. It’s also going to allow NOM, Del. Dwyer and others more time to mount a similar smear campaign against the LGBT community like NOM, the American Family Association, the Mormons and other religious/conservative groups did in California during the Prop 8 battle. I see this more as a way to pass the buck to the voters so no elected official has to get their hands dirty with such a sensitive subject and we will experience the same results as California did because those groups are much more organized and vocal than any of the LGBT organizations that were supposedly behind this bill in the first place. In Annapolis, I saw huge rallies for union workers in Wisconsin, unborn children’s rights and immigrants’ rights. Where were the marriage equality rallies? I saw about a dozen people in front of the State House the Tuesday before the bill was sent back to committee. The whole thing was mishandled from the start.

  • Where is the comment that I posted earlier today? Are you censoring the comments that do not jive with your article?

  • hey lou,

    great piece on the continuing madness and setbacks thanks to the usual suspects – HRC, FTM, Gill – and i wonder where were GLAAD and NGLTF in all this. i noticed you said nothing about gay inc orgs holding any public meetings with the community. nope, they made another big decisions amongst themselves in their closeted closed-door offices, and the larger community will just have to live with the lack of democracy from gay inc and their blunders.

    speaking of no town halls with the community, that is what we see in new york state. no open forums with socarides and ellner after their sit down with cumo.

    when do gay inc orgs ever get around to being open, with public meetings, and listening to the community?


  • As I see it Democrats hold the majority, and if they do not already know, and they shall, they stand to either lobby their fellow Legislators, move the boiling pot back onto the front burner, or they will be facing losses at the very next opportunity to oust at a minimum those “wavering” Democratic “Sponsors”. Will Three be enough?… Four?? If they believe that Not voting was the better thing to do for themselves personally, then they stand to learn an important lesson. Very little foresight.

    The point citing lack of openness and inclusion runs nationally. “We [few] know what to do, and we’re working very hard for you. Just send in your money.” I’ve had just about enough of this.

    There is plenty of blame to go around. A willing constituentcy waits untapped. ‘Tis high time to turn up the volume.

  • Great column. One thing we continue to learn is that all politics are local. National groups should not be making the decisions for local activists. It is great if they help and can raise money and offer advice but the final decisions on strategy should be left to the locals who know their states and the actors in them.

  • This is such a red herring and drama-mongering. Shame on you Blade. Why an article on this whining, guesswork and Monday-night quarterbacking of former board members who were themselves unable to advance marriage equality when they were at the helm of EQMD? We we should be focused like a laser on why we were not able to get enough votes to win. That is the one fact that no one disputes and where all our thoughts and energies should be directed.

  • It seems clear to me that this wasn’t about any real effort to save the bill at all, they denied a vote because about 23 or so homophobic Democrat members were going to vote against us, and they didn’t want to have to go on record. The Dems in the House of Delegates thought it would hurt the Democratic Party’s fundraising as a result of a defeat. Groups like HRC, Gill and Freedom to Marry were either dupped or willing accomplices to this scandal, and the result was a defeat anyway! We should ignore these groups and move to identify unsupportive Democrats who can be targeted for defeat in the next primary. Marriage will only occur when we replace unsupportive Dems with supportive Dems. If these organizations truly supported marriage equality, they would tell us which Dems are betraying us and allow us to run supportive Dems against them. The way I see it, they should give it a vote and let us see who is really on our side.

    • I agree. We need a hit list. They wanted to keep their cover. So they are going to lose their cover one way or another. If they did not come out publically in favor, then it equaled a no vote so they are on the hit list. It’s simple, especially the ones who took our money while lying to our faces.ALSTON. And in Baltimore, all 3 delegates in district 45 are on the hit list … every last one of them…and they know it…at least of them has been told to her face on February 14th and there are witnesses to that effect. She and the other 2 are getting their pink slips on the next election day. Actually, one maybe before that since she can’t even stay awake in session since her stroke…and she promised for 4 years to vote for us and stabbed us the night before the vote.

  • While, generally, my quotes speak for themselves, I must respond to Chuck Butler who, as thee Chair, should come to the table to attack my analysis and not me. NeVEr, in my comments did I ever attack the LGBt caucus, while they ultimately acquiesced in a decision I disagreed with, they are the heroes and sheroes of this whole mess. Chuck doesn’t know what decision making rooms I was and was not in as he was noticeably missing in action during this time- attacking me, who spent countless hours IN ANNAPOLIS doing the actual work of tryingto pass the bill seems pointless to me- While it’s true that I (along with half the Board) made the painful decision to leave the Board rather than serve under Chuck’s “leadership”-those issues are separate and distinct from the subject of this article. Why don’t you detail for the readers the “leadership” YOU demonstrated in making this decision, I suspect it wouldn’t take long and I, for one, am eager to be educated since apparently I was so far out of the know on this…….

  • Three people have posted here criticizing former EqMD board members McLaurin and Toth, basically saying “they were themselves unable to advance marriage equality when they were at the helm of EQMD.”
    Those who’ve been working this issue for the past eight years, beginning with Dan Furmansky’s tenure as Executive Director, know that the organization worked tenaciously over the years to get to this year (which, btw, was the target year for passage the past four years because of the way the Assembly works). Without the work of McLaurin and Toth over those years there would have been no bill this year. McLaurin worked the bill this year for SEIU, and Toth is a member of the Equality Federation board, an organization of which Equality Maryland is a member.
    Over the past 18 months the board has lost eight members, and over the past two years 11 members, including some of the longest serving veterans, which is a huge turnover for an organization with an average of 13 board members. The question that should be asked is why did the board proceed with marriage this year with so few experienced board members, and did that lack of experience contribute to the outcome?

    • Thank you Dana, Funny how people simply post without knowledge, had they looked into it, they would have known that I worked for 6 years on the board, mainly in the areas of finance and organizational management doing the back of the house work to keep EqMD running. Not to mention leaving my job to take over as Interim Managing Director during a time when there was no leadership and we searched for a new ED. But you know, that’s all OK, it shows some just want to vent. I say let them, but be productive when you do and try to improve things not just yell.

    • I agree Dana, but the courtesy and gratiousness that you extended to McLaurin and Toth does not seem to be getting extended to the current people at Equal. MD. That’s the whole point.

      When you have former board members challenging Equal. MD on FB pages and in Blade articles, the way this looks to regular people like me is not good. I think they know this but wanted to create a stir or show whoever they thought wasn’t listening. Power game is what it looks like from the outside. If the tone of the article would have been thank you all for all the hard work and look where we’ve come but maybe we could have done better and let’s have an open dialogue about how, yes, ok, fine. Do you see Furmansky writing articles about a monstrous strategic blunder on part of Equal. MD? What would people think if he did. Just a productive act? Dana, the way you have asked questions does appear productive. I think those questions do not have to be all over the press though, to be answered and for the appropriate soul-searching.

      • Thanks, Jennifer. I would love for there to be an accounting about the entire campaign, and it certainly doesn’t need to be in the press. I’ve been on enough boards to know that the buck stops with the board. Now, Dan isn’t speaking in public, nor should Morgan have to do so either. It’s the board that is ultimately responsible for the campaign, and as they surely would have taken credit for the success, they should take responsibility for the loss. Both as a matter of integrity, and to help Maryland and other states not repeat the same mistakes.That is all the Kevin requested, as far as I can see.
        As for the current board, while there has been a huge degree of turnover, much of it due to normal attrition but some, including myself, for personal and policy reasons, that should be a discussion for later. I will say that no one, on the current or previous boards, has given as much of herself as Lisa Polyak, and she should be honored for her contributions.

        • Tone and approach matter and I think yours is smack on. Those things are important for a no. of reasons, including for community morale and when you have a bunch of volunteers or people underpaid for the katrillion hrs they work. I’m all for an accounting, but wonder about the capacity right now when they need to focus on SB235 (is that the right no.??). It’s needed though and we need to see if Equal. MD will do it. Jumping on them for not doing it at this early point is unrealistic IMO & does not evidence a refusal. If they initially did not want to, give them time to come around & to be prudent.

          • It’s HB 235, and I’ve been working on it since it’s been dropped. There are serious problems with this bill, but, again, this is neither the time nor place to get into them since it is completely off-topic. This bill, while imperfect, has long been one of two co-priorities for EqMD, and now it is the sole priority., so it’s time to get to work and get it done. Not just EqMD, but the community at-large as well as the gay caucus.

    • @Dana Beyer. I completely agree with your statements and thank you for all of your leadership, I look forward to watching your political career grow.

      I do object to your assertion of Ms. Polyak, though from what I have read I respect her and her partner as individuals in the fight for equality, I do not agree with Lisa’s recent comments that have circulated in the community particularly her rumored involvement in this article. As a board member I believe that to be very much a violation of confidentiality and lack of confidence in her leadership. Also her recent public outburst in Annapolis of which I was present for and submitted a letter to Equality Maryland about was appalling. As a leader of an organization you do not stand and shout obscenities directly outside of the State House.

      I have held little criticism of Equality Maryland until recent weeks, but some of the behaviors of their leadership have been questionable which now includes, (if it is indeed true) of what I read here via Mark McLaurin’s comments, about Mr. Butler. If that comment is true, as an attorney, I would find it to be an utmost conflict of interest for Mr. Butler to be the Chair of the Board of the organization that he once interviewed for the top executive position and was declined.

      I understand all points of view that of the Equality Maryland board members and that of Mark and David. However, as my comments above note I am increasingly concerned by the behavior that has been transpiring over the course of this week.

      I am disheartened by the current motives, discussions and maneuvers that have been circulating within the community regarding all of the organizations mentioned in this article.

      I wish the LGBT movement much success in Maryland including the full inclusion of rights for the transgender community which are so essential. Thank you all for the dialogue and it is my sincere hope that this is handled rationally, responsibly and with due diligence.


      C. H. Jones, Esq.

      • CH, thank you for your support!

        Regarding Lisa, I’m not privy to comment on the assertions you made about her behavior of the past few weeks. I know Lisa has been outspoken in the past, and while that makes many uncomfortable, somebody needs to be blunt and forthright. If she misspoke in the heat of the moment I would only ask that you remember the blood, sweat and tears he’s put into this fight for the past eight years. Being the lead plaintiff to then lose in Court by a single vote, and now to lose the House by a single vote, is to suffer in a way few of us can imagine. I know, when the victory finally comes, she will be able to shift her perspective and recognize just how close she helped bring us before the final win, but for now we need to stand by her and her family.

    • Dana- you and I haven’t always seen eye to eye but I’ll forever be grateful for the clarity you Provided with your comment ! I hope you are well

      • Mark is happy to criticize current EqMd board members and staff but couldn’t take anyone doing the same to him (we must have the wrong facts as we all need to know he and David were such dedicated heros, etc.!!!!) – he virtually has an orgasm when someone praises him for his former board work and “corrects the record.” Pretty sad and hypocritical. Just makes you question whether people are out here for the cause or to settle scores or bolster egos. You are all to be thanked, now stop taking each other out and having a contest over who should be more thanked. Gross.

  • And to think…

    None of this ‘blundering’ would have happened this year if Maryland gays had stuck to what they have a moral obligation to do before even thinking about marriage: adding the trans protections in employment, housing AND PUBLIC ACCOMMOTATIONS that they cheated Maryland trans people out of a decade ago.

    But karma is as greed does.

  • Oh yeah, handing NOM an outright FORFEIT is good “strategy”. What a crock! So what if it disrupts their fund-raising? It would only be gay money going to waste. If these dems are not with us, WE DON’T WANT THEM! Can we get some fighters to take the lead please rather than these sell-outs please?

    • i love everyone out there with the solution “get rid of the jerks”! as if the md lgbt community really had that type of power.

    • I especially like the Alston’s and other legislators who took gay money on the premise of voting for us and then stabbing us in the back. And I agree with you. Those idiots handed NOM a victory by default. They were a bunch of fools and now we don’t have a hit list of legislators to get out of office.

  • Payback is a b**ch eh? EQMD and teh gays deserved this for leaving the trans community behind, work against us and this is what you get we told you that we would help defeat marriage and so you now have the proof.

  • To those who’ve questioned our posting and non-posting of comments to stories, this is Joey, the Blade’s editorial webmaster. Several have asked about this — for the record, we never don’t allow comments through just because we personally disagree with them or because they disagree with those of sources quoted in our stories. The only comments we delete are those that contain personal attacks, name calling, crude sexual humor and the like. We also sometimes delete extremely long posts, posts that contain entire stories from other news outlets or readers hawking their own products and wares.

    Try to post your comments again. Thanks, Joey

  • Pulling the bill is as much a defeat as a close vote. Unlike a close vote however, you don’t have anyone on the record and can only say please for the future. Who seriously believes the chamber will be more susceptible in an election year? And why the long debate when there was no vote to come? Should have shown some spine, put people on the record and then campaigned against anti-gay legislators, like they do in New York. And in New York, the anti-gay senators fall like flies.

  • Well said, Dana. Dan and the other former board members did SO much groundwork to make this happen. They in no way deserve to be blamed. Re the vote, I was there in the gallery on Friday. And we won that floor debate. Even if we DIDN’T have the votes. I’m telling you, as someone who watched it all happen, that it felt like a TOTAL cop-out. I wholeheartedly believe we should have let it run to a vote. Losing by a few votes would have been better than choking on our own bill. Now we’ve just given NOM more artillery in their everlasting crusade against us.

  • Unfortunately, like so many times in the past (i.e. California), those in the majority failed to do the needed leg work in communities that do not look or act like them to in order to gain a benefit for the entire community. Let’s call this bad behavior what it is…If anyone thinks that in today’s political environment it is okay to ram something down the throats of communities they won’t even have a dialogue with, than they simply don’t need to be doing this work. MDEquality, HRC and many others have a long history of purposely leaving certain communities (people of color, trans people, women, etc.) out of the conversations about decisions that affect the entire community or communities of LGBT folks. Stop the nonsense… open some doors. Learn your lesson for the sake of EQUALITY

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