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Equality Md. leader fired

Development director quits in protest; Meneses-Sheets cites ‘destructive forces’



Morgan Meneses-Sheets (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The board of directors of the statewide LGBT organization Equality Maryland voted Sunday night in a closed meeting to fire its executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, according to a statement released today by Matthew Thorn, the group’s development director.

Thorn, who was hired in January to lead Equality Maryland’s fundraising activities, announced in his statement that he was resigning immediately in protest over the board’s decision to dismiss Meneses-Sheets.

“This past Sunday, the Board of Directors of Equality Maryland, in executive session, voted to remove her from her position, essentially telling the organization’s staff, volunteers, supporters, funders and general community that the organization will now move in a different direction,” Thorn said in his statement.

“I fear that the direction that the board seeks to take is one that will not be a beneficial path for the community, for the organization, for the staff and especially for the organization’s funders, and that’s why, effective today, I am resigning from my position as director of development of Equality Maryland.”

In her own statement sent to the group’s volunteers today, which sources said she planned to post on her personal Facebook page, Meneses-Sheets said, “It is with heavy heart that I share that today will be my last day as the executive director of Equality Maryland. While it is not my choice to leave, it is my choice to make my voice heard as I exit.”

While her tenure at the organization over the past 18 months has provided “some of the most rewarding moments of my career,” she said in her statement that her job has also been “extremely” difficult.

“In particular the past few months have been tough to bear,” she said. “Not because of the hard work which I welcome and felt honored to be part of, but because of the forces within the organization and external politics that created additional and unnecessary obstacles to our forward movement and success.”

She added, “As I move on, I will not focus on the negative or destructive forces that created this untenable situation; instead I will look back at the many proud moments along the way.”

Patrick Wojahn, chair of the board of the Equality Maryland Foundation, the group’s educational arm, said the board would not comment on specific reasons for Meneses-Sheets’ departure, other than to say “it was a mutual decision by her and the organization.”

He said the board views both Meneses-Sheets’ and Mathew Thorn’s departures as personnel matters, which the board doesn’t publicly discuss.

Asked about Meneses-Sheets’ statement saying it was not her choice to leave the organization, Wojahn said, “It was partially our decision, too. But we essentially decided to go in a different direction as an organization. And I don’t want to comment any more on personnel matters.”

He added, “We should be coming out next week with more information on how we intend to proceed.”

Meneses-Sheets did not return a call Friday seeking an interview to discuss why she believes the board chose to dismiss her.

Sources familiar with the organization, who spoke only on condition that they not be identified, said Meneses-Sheets’ firing could stem, in part, from disagreements between her and board members over some of her decisions in carrying out the group’s efforts to pass a same-sex marriage bill and transgender non-discrimination bill in the Maryland Legislature.

At least two sources said board members became irate when she disclosed in a telephone news conference with media representatives the group’s timetable for seeking a vote by lawmakers on the marriage bill. The board members reportedly believed releasing such information would help opponents of the bills develop strategies to block or kill the legislation.

Her discussion on the media call about the strategy for the bill’s timing prompted Equality Maryland Board Chair Charles Butler to issue an order prohibiting Meneses-Sheets from speaking to the media, an action that other staff members viewed as an unfair intrusion by the board into her ability to use her judgment in carrying out the board’s policies, one of the sources said.

The same source said some board members became further upset last month when Meneses-Sheets agreed to a question-and-answer interview in Metro Weekly magazine, in which her photo appeared on the magazine’s cover.

“Some of them thought she was thumbing her nose at those on the board who didn’t want her to talk to the press,” the source said.

Her supporters viewed the board’s directive prohibiting an executive director of a political organization from talking to the media as a petty intrusion into the day-to-day operation of the group, sources familiar with the group said.

One source blamed the board for “failing to get their own act together” on the marriage and transgender bills.

Butler didn’t return a call on Friday seeking his views on the reasons for Meneses-Sheets’ dismissal.

The departure of Meneses-Sheets and Thorn from Equality Maryland follows a tumultuous four-month period in which tense, behind-the-scenes disputes surfaced between board members and Meneses-Sheets over strategy in the group’s unsuccessful effort to pass same-sex marriage and transgender non-discrimination bills, according to sources familiar with the organization.

Sources say the tension and sometimes bitter infighting went beyond Equality Maryland and involved a tangle of alliances with several national LGBT organizations that exerted great influence over the push to pass the same-sex marriage bill. Among them were D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, Denver-based Gill Action Fund and the New York-based Freedom to Marry.

E-mails obtained by the Blade that were sent by officials of the three groups to Meneses-Sheets, Equality Maryland board members and LGBT members of the Maryland Legislature show that the groups pushed hard for cancelling a planned vote on the marriage bill in the state’s House of Delegates. The controversial decision to cancel the vote and recommit the bill to committee, which killed it for the year, came after the national LGBT groups and some supportive lawmakers determined they didn’t have the votes to pass the bill and it would be better to recall it then go forward with a losing vote.

Other activists and Equality Maryland supporters strongly disputed that decision, saying the bill had a chance of passing and even if it lost, it would have been better to force lawmakers to take a recorded vote to determine where they stood on marriage equality.

The death of the marriage bill for the legislature’s 2011 session was quickly followed by a separate vote in the Maryland Senate to recommit to committee the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act, an action that also killed that measure for the year.

The two developments were viewed as a double defeat for Equality Maryland at a time when many thought the legislature should have passed both measures. Supporters of Meneses-Sheets say at least some Equality Maryland board members were seeking to make her the “scapegoat” for the bills’ defeat, saying the demise of the two measures was due, at least in part, to forces beyond Equality Maryland’s control

Meneses-Sheets devotes most of her two-page statement to citing what she calls the major successes of Equality Maryland during her tenure and the tenure of the group’s staff and volunteers. Among other things, she said the group played a key role in the advancement of the same-sex marriage and transgender rights bills to a point further than had been achieved over the previous five years.

“As a Marylander, as a lesbian, as a parent, as someone with many loved ones who are transgender and as someone who believes in social justice, I sincerely hope that Equality Maryland will succeed in their future endeavors to ensure that our state lives up to the promise of equality for all of its citizens,” she said. “This will require significant change, but it is possible.”

Meneses-Sheets became the third executive director of Equality Maryland to leave the group since 2008. Thorn’s resignation comes just five months after he joined the group in January. His predecessor as development director, Kevin Walling, left the group in September 2010 less than two years after being hired in January 2009.

Thorn’s statement in full:

“Today, it is with great sadness that I resign as director of development of Equality Maryland.  Over the past few months, I have given tireless energy to see the success of the organization and it has been made apparent in these last few days that the organization, lead by the board of directors wishes to see the organization to move in a different direction.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Marylanders have found a true champion in Morgan Meneses-Sheets. Not only has she committed time and energy away from her wife and her 5-month-old daughter, but she had the tenacity to keep fighting in Annapolis, even when all others had given up. Giving up just isn’t in her vocabulary. This past Sunday, the board of directors of Equality Maryland, in executive session voted to remove her from her position, essentially telling the organization’s staff, volunteers, supporters, funders and general community that the organization will now move in a different direction.

I fear that the direction that the board seeks to take is one that will not be a beneficial path for the community, for the organization, for the staff and especially the organization’s funders, and that is why, effective today, I am resigning from my position as director of development of Equality Maryland. I wish nothing but the best to the staff and the community and hope that we can overcome these obstacles to continue to fight for our full equality.”

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  1. Cathy Brennan

    April 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Looks like the board of EqMD has some explaining to do.

  2. Marti Abernathey

    April 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I don’t think anyone is shocked. MD fumbled on marriage equality and on HB235.

  3. Kat

    April 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Here’s a thought: Make sure that the process employed to find her replacement involves the actual consideration of candidates who are trans women – though preferably women not named Beyer.

    • Dana Beyer

      April 22, 2011 at 11:26 pm

      So, Katrina, we all know you hate me, but you hate Georgina Beyer as well? The former trans New Zealand MP who was a step away from the premiership? Very sad.

    • Mark Jason McLaurin

      April 23, 2011 at 1:30 am

      That’s so classy !!!!

  4. Tim

    April 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Okay, I read the article. All I know is that they fired the exec director and that someone else resigned in protest. Do I know why she was fired and the other guy resigned? Not from the article I do not. We need far fewer words and for more punch. Come on Blade, this is not up to your usual standard.

  5. Matt Rider

    April 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I have to say that this news deeply troubles me. I remember when Morgan was hired after her predecessor left. I had been so unhappy wiht how unproductive her predecessor was that I really was dubious about her (Morgan’s) potential as a leader. She not only met my expectations as a gay Marylander with children, she surpassed them. I found Morgan to be amazingly organized, knowledgeable about the law and the political landscape, and a real mover and shaker. I am honestly dumbfounded by this turn of events. I find it deeply troubling that the Board for Equality Maryland made this decision without consulting its constituency–namely us, the Marylanders who desperately need action on this issue. I would second Cathy Brennan’s comment that the Board does, indeed, have a lot of explaning to do. Because where I stand, they just crippled our efforts for equality for at least the next four years. And that to me is unconscienable. Morgan was our best hope, after so many other years of no action, this woman got it done. She truly had the leadership and the political finesse to put our legistlators’ toes to the fire. If the Board has something concrete on Morgan that would justify firing her, they should come forward with that information and be completely transparent about it. If this was nothing more than political scapegoating, then I am completely disgusted and the rest of Maryland should be as well. Equality Maryland’s Board should consider how this will impact its ability to raise funds. What a shame!

    • Tim Walstrum

      April 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      It was very simple. The decisions she has made over the last few months have divided rather than unite the community. She caved to national organizations on the SSM bill. On HB235 it divided the transgender community. Under her watch people opposed were censored or banned from their Facebook for daring to question the tactics of EQMD. I applaud the board’s move. I was not going to give money to EQMD until I saw changes. This is a good first step.

      • Anonymous

        April 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm

        How do you know it was Morgan and not the Board? That could be the source of the dispute/conflict between the two.

    • Skep

      April 23, 2011 at 1:09 am

      If this year’s catastrophic failures satisfied your expectations, your expectations need revising.

  6. T

    April 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    While the actions of the Board of EqMD are questionable on their own. I am more disturbed by the interferences run by the HRC, Gill and Freedom to Marry. HRC I expect to interfere with state issues instead of keep their hands on the federal goals. I’m not familiar enough with Gill to comment, and Freedom to Marry should know it is far better to get votes on record and then run offensive campaigns to get pro-lgbt members in the House and Senate, than it is to recall a bill. For that matter HRC should know that also. I see this as another mark against HRC, an organization that is still recovering from missteps in ’08. As for the board of EqMD they should look carefully at who their national affiliates are and decide if they really have their best interests in mind or are only looking to pad their own coffers. EqMD you owe the people of your state very clear answers to several questions.

  7. Anonymous

    April 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Let’s hold the board to the same standard that they held Morgan to and see if they pass muster and themselves do not deserve to be fired. How do they get fired?Who selected these people anyway? If we’re going to start fresh due to failures, why do they not pay the price too? Morgan is not the second coming of Jesus, but I agree that this cripples us for several years while we find a replacement and that replacement gets up to speed. With the turnover like EQMD has had in the past few years, that is completely on the board. Not a highly functioning organization.

    Is anyone from the board resigning and taking responsibility for this session?

    I also want the Blade to get more details for us so we can know if board members need to be pressured to resign and so the community can say the direction we move in.

  8. Marcy Aurand

    April 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    To me it’s a sad day when finally things start to look promising, only to be thrown under the bus once again. Seems to me the board sided behind our backs with the very people they were fighting against. To me they stabbed everyone of us in the back doing this. And unless they have a very good reason for doing it(and I mean a real good one) I give them a vote on no confidence, and will not support them in any future venture.

  9. Michael Rogers

    April 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Regardless of the situation (I have no idea what happened), the two departed staff members are being quite unprofessional. Why would anyone want to hire someone who, if it doesn’t work out, leaves with a rant and a regular trashing of the organization.

    As for Thom. What was his commitment to the organization that he would leave with no notice. Sure, he might have been upset. But a professional says “I do not agree with this decision and i am giving you two week’s notice.”

    • C.H. Jones Esq.

      April 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm


      I would have to disagree. I believe that they are trying to inform the LGBT community that backroom deals and decisions are not the way to do business and it is unfair to the LGBT community as a whole. Though I think the story has evolved from where it was when it broke, considering now the input of two anonymous sources, overall I think it was handled professionally on their parts. As you can see they released statements and left it at that and there were no disparaging remarks made by them to the organization.

      As for Thorn in particular, would you want to stay at an organization that was playing games, manipulating the situation and unloading a ton of b.s. on your boss. I wouldn’t. I think under normal circumstances yes he should have stayed and given a 2 week notice, but I feel as though the chances are very high that he would have been the next one scapegoated by the board of directors. I would not want to deal with that.

      I support both of them in moving forward and wish nothing but the best for them and the LGBT community as a whole in Maryland. I think we need to respect this and move forward.


      • Skep

        April 23, 2011 at 1:06 am

        Firing an executive director after the colossal failures we saw this year is not “scapegoating.” It’s called accountability.

  10. Been there, done that

    April 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Three executive directors in the past three years, with the last two leaving abruptly due to board action. Perhaps the Board should take a good long look at itself and its search committees, and engage in a search process that will bring in a qualified candidates aligned with their vision for the organization and the organization’s needs. Then, get out of the way and let your director lead!

  11. evolutionisfact

    April 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Hmmmm….How come the maryland Gay/Lesbian Community never has a chance to ever vote on any of these board members and oh so secret back room policies??? Seems to me that an awful lot of these G/L “leaders” seem to be content with appointing themselves or their very close buddies to all these positions of authority. Yet they don’t seem to mind asking us all for a contribution every now and then. I’ve volunteered for these “advocacy” groups before and believe me folks, it’s all ONE BIG CLIQUE!!

  12. Kelli TrANNsAction Busey

    April 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Submitted 7:38 PM CT 4/22/2011

    Whats not addressed by this article is the real reason Sheets was fired. As a “Equality” organization’s leader you can not mistreat and ignore the people you say you represent. I believe firing her was the first and only thing Equality Maryland needed to do to get back in the communities good graces.

    I seriously hope Equality Maryland now allows all of its members to comment. I hope they stop making false claims against there members.

    And Washington Blade I hope you publish this comment by me. I am sure you are aware by now some key people are aware of your censorship and misrepresentation of the transgender community as well.

    • Anonymous

      April 22, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      How do you know it was Morgan and not the Board or her at the Board’s direction? That could be the source of the dispute/conflict between the two.

    • Kat

      April 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm

      “As a “Equality” organization’s leader you can not mistreat and ignore the people you say you represent.”

      Well, you certainly shouldn’t be able to get away with it. On the other hand, HRC makes a religion of it.

    • Mark Jason McLaurin

      April 23, 2011 at 1:36 am

      Ok…..ur group has now killed a bill andsinglehandedly fought down an Executive Director, I’m looking forward to tomorrowmornings press release announcing the success of your secret plan to have the sum come up !!!!!

  13. Anonymous

    April 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Go the Equality Maryland’s about us page on the website and read the bios of the Board of Directors. Lawyers, lobbyists, a professor, etc. A group that can’t keep their butts out of the kitchen and let a director do his/her job. Your role is to oversee the overall health (mainly $$) of the organization. Not micromanage and completely dismantle a year and a half of solid groundwork. Obviously this is an emotional time for a lot of people; not the best environment for good decision making by a group of mostly white, gay men (spoken by a white, gay man).

  14. Tia

    April 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I am sickened by the way in which the board acted, but to be honest I am more sickened by many (not all) of the comments made about this situation and this phenomenal woman. First of all to the person who said she was unprofessional for leaving I would like to see you leave a position that you were deeply devoted to with even close to as much grace and clalss as she did after the way she was treated and all that she did to advance the fight. Many in her situation would have told them off and lost it, but she did not she left with dignity and class even after they strung her along for months!!
    To the person who said she ignored them, how can you say she did not fight for your rights? I believe she was in the office on last Saturday (before the final vote was to happen) until 5 and then back Sunday afternoon. Then all day Monday on the front lines waiting to hear what the final outcome would be. She was not in Richmond celebrating with her family she was in Baltimore fighting for YOU!! How dare you speak to things you know NOTHING about!!! And getting back in the communities graces, I don’t know what community you live it, but most people are pissed and saddened by this, those that understand the political process and know just what Meneses-Sheets did to advance your rights. Stop griping because the bill did not make it through, and be happy that it made it as far as it did because of Meneses-Sheets, not in spite of her.
    To all the rest of you who said ill things, Meneses-Sheets has spent 70-80 hour work weeks away from her 5 month old and wife to fight for all your rights and now many of you bash her. SHAME ON YOU!! SHAME ON ANY AND ALL OF YOU who bash her and have little to no idea what you are talking about! I’d like to see any of you devote the amount of time and put forth amount of passion she did for this organization and for YOUR RIGHTS!!
    You all should work together to advance these bills and laws that you want to pass and stop working against one another like the children in a middle school. Until you can all work towards a common goal TOGETHER it will never be reached!! How about instead of sitting on here griping about what Meneses-Sheets did or didn’t do you get off your butts and volunteer for what you believe in and be part of making the difference instead of part of the problem!!

    • Anonymous

      April 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      Simmer down. Hardly anyone said anything “ill” about Morgan, but there are certainly people out there that have critiques of her and those may be valid. She is not Mother Theresa. Obviously you have a personal relationship with her and your own perspective. That others do not share your perspective is fine and to be expected. People have differing views on EDs all the time. The trans community feels Morgan did not do a good job in certain respects and they wanted her held accountable. They have a right to that opinion. We also had no legislative gains this session. An ED can be held accountable for that and so should the board be. Also, Morgan did work hard but she is also paid a nice salary to do that. She is not a volunteer. Any ED job is not 9 to 5. I appreciate her going above and beyond, but it was her job to do so. If hard work was all you needed to keep a job, she would not have lost her job. Clearly the board believed that EQMD was better off with someone else at the helm. Unless you are her boss, you really can’t say whether she was meeting expectations and doing the job that they expected. Outsiders are never in a good position to second guess employers, though they often try.

  15. Skep

    April 23, 2011 at 1:03 am

    After this year’s double-barreled failure in the legislature, this firing is completely unsurprising. As for Mr. Thorn, good riddance. The interests of the “staff” should NOT be trumping everything else.

    • Anonymous

      April 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      I didn’t see anything from Thorn in terms of fundraising in his months on the job. We have got to get that part of EQMD in gear for once. It has always sputtered.

  16. Mark Jason McLaurin

    April 23, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Ok…..ur group has now killed a bill andsinglehandedlybrought down an Executive Director, I’m looking forward to tomorrowmornings press release announcing the success of your secret plan to have the sun come up !!!!!

  17. Mark Jason McLaurin

    April 23, 2011 at 1:41 am

    That should say sun

  18. The Transexual Menace

    April 23, 2011 at 5:42 am

    The peril of pretending to include T in LGBT is now readily apparent to all. Too bad no one at EQMD listened to us at the beginning and included Public Accommodations in HB235.

    Hopefully EQMD realized the need to fully include T and doesn’t make the same mistakes in 2012. We want to support marriage rights, not oppose them in a political war for full equality within the LGBT community.

    • Anonymous

      April 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      Hate to break it to you but the T had nothing to do with Morgan’s firing. The board was looking to do this starting long ago for unrelated issues.

    • Ben

      April 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Is this a joke? Gays getting bogged down in these bizarre and extraneous T issues is one of the greatest obstacles to our progress. Your advice, no doubt made with no self-interest in mind, is for us to double down on a suicidal strategy.

      • Cathy Brennan

        May 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

        This is a valid observation. As much as the T shouts that they get screwed in the LGBT, I could pose the same question. How are the interests of the L aligned with working with the T. I am in favor of separate communities that ally when we can, but I am not interesed in suicide.

  19. Will

    April 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    How is that a well managed organization can’t find the resources in a 24 hour cycle to update its website. Equality Maryland still list both of these former employees.

    • Anonymous

      April 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Newsflash: The organization is not well managed. In fact, it has no leader at the helm currently.

  20. Mark Jason McLaurin

    April 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Is anyone else even slightly bothered by the fact that BOTH of Morgan’s “bosses” at Equality Maryland (both the c3 and c4 Board chairs) competed against Morgan unsuccessfully for the ED job ??? How would any of us feel about taking a job where you will be supervised by people who you beat out for the job in the first place ??? It’s a set up for failure. I sat on the hiring committee and it’s no secret, I voted against her, I didn’t think she was ready, but she proved me wrong ! Make no mistake, this is a sad day for both Equality Maryland and the movement !!!

    • Ralph

      April 24, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      If you were on the Board when it hired waste-of-six-months Runyon, you might not want to throw stones.

      Yes, I am bothered. What was the process for both c3 and c4 Chairs to become the Chair?

      • Mark Jason McLaurin

        April 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

        I’m glad you brought that up !!!! Not to toot my own horn, but I voted against and fought against hiring Kate, also, but I was outvoted again !!!!!

  21. Linda

    April 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    This is the first thing that EQMD has done right. The loss of marriage was the result of extreme incompetence and a lack of preparation. If this wasn’t a fire-able offense, I don’t know what would be. Although I don’t particularly care about the so-called “gender identity” bill, since I do not accept the legitimacy of the concept of “LGBT”, it is considered an EQMD legislative goal, so losing on that one further illustrated the group’s incompetence. More to the point, MD is a referendum state, so even if EQMD had managed to squeak out a narrow win, why would anyone believe that they would be competent to run a complex, state-wide campaign against the inevitable repeal referendum?

    Here’s what the board should do:

    – Hire skilled people with connections in the legislature. Hire a significant fundraiser.

    – Pass a civil unions bill. If this is put up, it will pass overwhelmingly and there is a good chance that it would not trigger a repeal effort at the ballot. After a few years, having built support and a war chest, pursue full marriage equality.

    – Get out of the business of legislating transgender bathroom usage. These issues are too marginal and are frankly seen as bizarre by most Marylanders. Be an ally to trans people when possible, but do not allow yourselves to be co-opted by a small group of mostly non-gay people with lots of baggage.

  22. Trey

    April 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    The Board hired her and bears the most significant responsibility for any failure that may have occurred. Apparently this is the third time in three years. The Blade has failed journalistically by characterizing this as a personnel issue. How absurd. It’s clearly a leadership issue about a Board with significant deficiencies.

    (And as a disclaimer, I’ve met the former ED and at least one of the Board members. Have no personal preference for or against any of them. But I recognize the smell of a dysfunctional nonprofit Board of Directors from a mile away. A competent Board would have under the same circumstances created a succession plan that allowed the ED to depart over a period of weeks or months, or moved her into an advisory role to transition in a new ED.)

  23. David

    April 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Makes me miss Dan Furmansky as executive directrr even more. Equality Md needs some leadership, starting with the board.

  24. Anonymous

    April 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    The EQMD board has been a mess for years, but seems to be the most messy after the departure of Scott Davenport. Leadership vacuum. The board has been like a revolving door for some time. People come on and people leave, most of them poor picks any way. Selections appear completely misdirected and haphazard. Same with hires. The board hired an entirely incompetent ED (the one that came before Morgan) and we lost about 6-12 months of critical time in the fight with that person in place. Also there has never been a strong fundraiser in place (the last 3 were bad hires) and the community organizers are glorified gophers and cheerleaders.

    Dan Furmansky, who had his downsides just like Morgan did, was so experienced at the job that the board really did not have to do much except watch. He was so associated with EQMD that he did not warrant much oversight because he WAS the organization. Now that he’s gone, the board has needed to step up, but it simply wasn’t up to the task. It is clear that the board and Morgan could not work together well at all and both are at fault for this. If we are getting rid of Morgan, we should also get rid of the board chairs. They have no oversight (unless the Blade gets on this better) and no one to fire them, so they should resign after a bad year too. I hope the Blade calls for that.

  25. Syd Diamond

    April 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

    EQMD needs to find a replacement as soon as possible since we only have 8 months before the next legislative session. As a donor I hope they pick someone who can clean house.

  26. Justin B Terry-Smith

    April 25, 2011 at 11:36 am

    This is appalling I know Morgan and she has been one of the best leaders that organization has seen, Dan Furmansky included. The board really a messed up big time by firing Morgan. She has done her job and done it well. We cannot fire someone on the basis that legislation wasn’t passed when we wanted it. Also this could not have come at a worse time. Maryland’s legislation session is coming up in less than 8 months and this will hinder us if a GOOD replacement is not found ASAP. But it seems to me that they have already fired a good leader and a phenominal women who is one of the nest Equal RIghts leaders for LGBT right in Maryland. My hat goes off to Morgan and Dan for thier unyielding fight for ALL LGBT Marylanders and yes that includes the T. We also need to realize that just because the T is not the forfront off the fight doesn’t mean that we have turned out backs on them. The fight for Equal rights has been hard for everything color especially those who fall under the Rainbow colors. We need to stop bickering amongst ourselves and realize the fight is not in our house but outside where conservatives block our right and continue to pin us down as 2nd class citizens.

    • David

      April 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      There is more than one side to the coin.

      She has many positive qualities & we benefitted from them.
      On the negative side……

      *She lacks the charisma and strong motivational speaking skills of Dan Furmansky
      *She appeared a youthful cheerleader instead of a sophisticated movement leader
      *She was a poor fundraiser & did not work well with donors especially wealthy donors
      *She was not open to the ideas of others or real delegating
      *The board says she did not work well with them

      Can we do better and quickly – I’d say it is unlikely.

  27. B

    April 26, 2011 at 2:16 am

    I agree that too much energy was wasted on the trans bill. That whole issue should have been shelved until the same sex marriage bill passed.

    As for the now former ED of the group, it’s over. She is not coming back. Time to move on.

    But except for the board members who tried out for the job before, what sane, competent person would want to work for them, especially seeing how they treated the past employee.

    As someone commented before me, an organization that had one shred of common sense would have worked out a transition plan instead of this ridiculous mess.

  28. Dianna Li

    April 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I am a transgender woman and I agree with Matt Rider that Morgan’s predecessor left a lot to be desired. Once she started, the emails about what the group was doing (initiatives, goals, events, etc.) really kept members informed and involved in the organization. Since her dismissal, that has nearly come to a halt.

    The Board is acting like they’re afraid to be seen or heard. This kind of stupid, childish bickering is going to do nothing but make those starting to come out disappear back to the closet and make the rest of us laughing stock once again. The LGBT community needs someone who has the courage and energy to fight for the rights of others instead of being cowards like the rest of the Board. Use ALL the tools at your disposal- the media (TV, radio, and print), the Internet- everyone else does- and usually to smear our community.

    The last email I got from EM was on 4/22 from Owen Smith about the one-year anniversary of the death of a teenage FTM. Anything from them about protesting the beating of the transgender at McDonald’s in Baltimore? I would venture to say I think Morgan would have been all over that and made sure EVERYONE found out about that hate crime.

    If Morgan started another organization to fight for our rights, she can count on me to join her.

  29. Tk

    May 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    It’s curious that the board would so vehemently disagree with Morgan talking to the media. Is the LGBT community not seeking to show our heterosexual neighbors who we ‘really’ are, as opposed to how they’ve been taught to view us? Does that particular goal not require communication? And isn’t communication most easily conducted through the media? But no no, LGBT leaders shouldn’t speak to the media or report a timeline of when certain pro-gay rights legislation can be expected to be reviewed by state legislators, because that allows the opposition a chance to rally against our cause. Does the EQMD board really think that Anti-LGBT advocates don’t know when pro-gay legislation will be introduced?

    And does no one else realize that every time HRC gets involved with pro-gay legislation that is introduced, that they always some how or some way try to stop its progression, either by causing it to stall on the floor, or preaching to the choir about waiting 7 years before we try to get our rights?

    Something seriously corrupt is going on in these big LGBT non-profit organizations.

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Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine

New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space



The owners of Bistro du Jour say, ‘Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics.’ (Photo by Rey Lopez courtesy Bistro du Jour)

Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.

Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.

Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.

Why bring French to the Wharf?

“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”

The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.

Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.

“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”

By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.

Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.

Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.

The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.

Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.

Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.

The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.

As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”

“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”

Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say. 

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Real Estate

Dining without a dining room

Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past



The large formal dining room is a thing of the past. Here are some tips for a more modest Thanksgiving set up.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.

My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.

Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.

On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.

When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.

As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.

For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.

Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?

First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.

Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.

You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.

If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.

Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.

Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.

Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Fun holiday gifts for car fans

Something for everyone, from Bentley trikes to a Mercedes tree topper



For all those gear heads in your life, here are some fun holiday gifts to get their motors running. Many of these stocking stuffers are affordable. Others, well, not so much.

Bentley Trike for Tykes

Leave it to Bentley to create a fancy fuchsia trike ($500). With six modes, from stroller to tricycle, parents can adjust this three-wheeler as a toddler gets older. Along with the “Big B logo,” the Bentley name is emblazoned on the down tube. Yes, there are more subdued colors, but why bother?

Ford Sherpa Blanket

Cuddle up with a warm and fuzzy Sherpa blanket ($30), made of 100% polyester and the Ford logo embroidered in the corner.

MINI Travel Bag

For quick weekend getaways, MINI has a large soft-luggage travel bag ($190) with extendible handle, two wheels, large main compartment, outer pocket and removable zipped pockets.

Porsche Table-top Clock

The alarm tone on this tabletop clock ($250) sounds just like a throaty Porsche 911 engine. Includes Martini Racing design, as well as a countdown function and analog/digital display.

Rolls-Royce Portable “Pursuit Seat”

Rolls-Royce, known for its relentless pursuit of perfection, now has a portable “Pursuit Seat” ($8,800) — perfect for any derriere. The adjustable seat is anything but old school, made of carbon fiber, polished aluminum and cushy leather (tastefully embossed with the Spirit of Ecstasy insignia, of course).

Mercedes Tree Topper

What better tree topper than a Mercedes three-pointed metal star ($52), which measures 8 inches across. Post on social, and dare anyone to top that!

Aston Martin Wrestwatch

Just in time for the holidays, there’s the Laureato Chronograph Aston Martin Edition ($18,000). Made by Girard-Perregaux), this ritzy wristwatch has a high-grade stainless-steel case, finely polished edges on the bezel, sapphire-crystal pane on the back, and racing-green paint applied to the dial 21 times.

Jaguar Suitcase

Simple but elegant, Jaguar’s compact suitcase ($282) has a polycarbonate shell, aluminum frame and multidirectional wheels that look like real alloy car wheels. Two larger suitcases also available.

Subaru Holiday Sweater

Just shy of being an entrant at some ugly-sweater contest, this festive Subaru holiday sweater ($70) is 100% acrylic and incredibly comfortable.

Front End of a 1962 Ferrari 268 SP

Only one 1962 Ferrari 268 SP race car was ever built, and now there’s a full-scale replica of the front end ($22,000). A pedestal is available, or enthusiasts can mount this work of art on the wall.

Ferrari Vintage Steering Wheel

For more frugal fare (kinda sorta) Ferrari offers a vintage three-spoke steering wheel ($4,010). Such steering wheels were used in Ferraris between 1959 and 1965, and this full-scale repro—made of mahogany and polished aluminum—features the iconic prancing horse in the center.

Bentley Heritage Bear

Many automakers offer cuddly teddy bears, and Bentley is no exception. The limited-edition Heritage Bear ($57) is decked out in snazzy fleece jacket, suede-like helmet and racing goggles. There’s even a dust bag with drawstring for safekeeping.

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