Equality Maryland’s board of directors and its foundation announced today that, as a result of declining donations, it is taking action to either reduce — or possibly cease — operations next month.
“Despite continued policy advocacy and educational programming, funding sources for the organization have dwindled in recent years following victories on such major issues as marriage equality and a transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination law,” the statement reads.
The statement, which was issued by Stephanie Bernstein, chair of Equality Maryland and Isabella Firth Shycoff, chair of its foundation, said, “Equality Maryland is an extraordinary organization that has accomplished amazing things on behalf of the Maryland LGBT community, and led the rest of the nation in championing rights and protections, such as the achievement of marriage equality and transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination protections.”
Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland’s executive director since November 2011, was laid off effective June 6 as a result the financial crisis.
“None of our successes could have been possible without the remarkable leadership of Carrie Evans,” said the statement. “Her work continues under the leadership of Keith Thirion, interim executive director, Patrick Locklin, Equality Maryland’s office manager, the members of the Equality Maryland and Equality Maryland Foundation boards, and the organization’s members, and generous and courageous funders and supporters.”
The statement indicated that “funding from individuals and major donor sources dropped significantly after securing marriage equality but remained committed to securing anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.”
Evans previously worked for Equality Maryland as director of policy and planning from 2007-2009. She left the organization shortly after its then-executive director, Dan Furmansky, resigned in late 2008.
During Evans’ tenure, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act passed the Maryland Legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley in March of 2012. A referendum to overturn the law by opponents failed by a 52-48 margin in November 2012. The effort was led by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of organizations in which Equality Maryland was a member. Same-sex marriage took effect on January 1, 2013.
The next year, Equality Maryland, under Evans’ direction, worked for passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which provided protections in the areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodations based on gender identity.
During the 2015 General Assembly, Equality Maryland worked successfully to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in insurance coverage for infertility. In addition, a bill was passed that allows transgender Marylanders to request a new birth certificate with an updated gender marker.
“The board believes passionately that Equality Maryland ought to continue to play a critical, central role in the coming years for our community, but is facing one of two possibilities for the future: drastically scaling down operations, with a reduced capacity to serve its many constituencies across the state, or suspending operations entirely,” the statement says. “Unless and until we secure adequate revenue to sustain the organization, the important services, oversight and advocacy it has consistently provided to the Maryland LGBT community will cease to be.”
The board plans to make a final decision regarding the future of the organization in the coming weeks and welcomes input from the community. All comments and questions may be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.