June 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm EDT | by Rachel Zipper
No respect for Equality Maryland staff

Recently there has been a lot of finger pointing and blame going around regarding the state of affairs at Equality Maryland. What has been lost in the discussion, however, is the truly dedicated staff that has worked with myself and other volunteers this past legislative session.

Often working without sleep or food; barely seeing loved ones. Stress. Constant unknowns. Such was the life of Equality Maryland staff during this past tumultuous session. Phone banking, canvassing, stop and dials, lobbying, hearings — there was always something to do. Or rather, there was always too much that needed to be done. Volunteers. Politicians. Members. There were so many personalities and capacities. Many volunteers signed up but did not show up. Some just talked and did not work. Politicians told staff one thing and did another. Plans and actions were constantly thrown out the door and re-worked as politicians delayed hearings, re-scheduled meetings or wavered in their support.

Members were apathetic, couldn’t be bothered, or were so annoyed by calls asking for their advocacy that they threatened to withdraw their support entirely. It was as if the staff couldn’t win. Whatever they did, someone would be upset; something would inevitably go wrong. Yet, they plowed on, through bone-achingly freezing mornings organizing outside; through hours of seemingly endless driving to canvasses, to trainings, to stopping strangers and asking for support; through night after night huddled around phones and computers, subsisting on caffeine and bad food, and stuck with their co-workers, who, no matter how nice, could be draining after 15 hours of having to share a small, tense office space.

Working for a small non-profit is hard. You will be underpaid, overworked, rarely appreciated and expected to meet standards of perfection that people rarely apply to big businesses. Turnover is understandably high. Sustainable funding is scarce. Yet, this is not an excuse for incompetence. With the help of small groups of professional volunteers, the staff of Equality Maryland did their jobs and did them well. I do not know the executive director or the board or the LGBT caucus. What I do know is this: Having been involved with Equality Maryland since 2004, I have never seen the staff as dedicated and hard-working as this past year.

I do not pretend to speak for anyone other than myself but I do believe that others hold similar sentiments: Whatever the fate of Equality Maryland, I am proud to have served alongside the staff, getting ever closer to a more just and equal future for Maryland. You know who you are. Thank you.

Rachel Zipper was a volunteer coordinator for Equality Maryland in Anne Arundel County and has been involved with the organization since 2004.

  • Why does anyone pay any attention to Equality Maryland (EM)? Think about it… If the legislature in Maryland, the blueist of blue states, doesn’t pass gay-friendly legislation there’s nothing that an organization like EM can do about it.

    The reason gay-friendly legislation failed was because the black legislators got flack from their church-going constituents, and caved for fear of losing their seats. There’s nothing EM could have done or can do in the future to overcome an objection from legislators whose number one goal is to protect their own hide.

  • “Often working without sleep or food; barely seeing loved ones. Stress. Constant unknowns.” It sounds like every job I have had since 1973. Often thankless too.

    The staff that I have come to know are some of the most fantastic people I have met. My criticisms have rarely been of the staff.

  • Thanks Rachel, Dana. It was a pleasure to get to know you both during my time in MD. <3

  • Rachel thank you for your service. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for acknowledging the folks that often get the least amount of credit. I have to agree… the staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to do everything they could. And for the record… yours and everyone’s efforts helped Maryland get further for full LGBT equality than ever before. Not enough folks realize the leaps and bounds that were made. Don’t give up and don’t stop the doing the work you have been doing. There are those of us ready and willing to give everything we can to the fight.

    @Laurelboy2 until we stand strong enough to get the legislators to take us seriously they will continue to ignore the power we have. Ignoring phone calls for grass roots help, not donating to support the efforts, not calling and applying pressure to your and other legislators gets the cause no where. You can put the blame directly at the feet of the legislators all day long but whining that nothing will ever make a difference is just that… whining. Get in the thick of the fight you might find it’ll change your life. It’s immensely gratifying to do so.

  • Thanks Rachel for all your work, and for expressing your thoughts. I agree with much of what you’ve said here. If just 10% of the people who show up at gay pride had showed up to **work** and be involved alongside the volunteers and staff of Equality MD, what a difference this could have made.
    As Laurelboy2 has pointed out………Whining will will accomplish absolutely nothing. We need to ALL role up our sleeves and get to work.

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