In anticipation of a rumored anti-LGBT executive order from President Donald Trump, the Pride Foundation of Maryland and The Frederick Center organized rallies on Feb. 2 to mobilize community members in opposition to the order.
The executive order has not been signed, however a draft order circulated widely this week indicating discriminatory provisions that would target same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity under the pretext of “religious freedom.”
“We’re not giving up the gains we’ve spent our lives to win,” said Matt Thorn, board member of the Pride Foundation of Maryland and executive director of Outserve-SLDN, in a statement. “If this president wants to pick a fight, we’re ready for it.”
Kris Fair, board chair of The Frederick Center, said of the rallies, “The Frederick Center is happy to join activists all over the state Thursday as we speak with one voice to tell the Trump administration that supporting the LGBTQ community is an American value.”
As dusk settled on the Ynot Lot in the Station North area of Baltimore—a popular venue for activists to stage rallies and vigils—about 50 individuals braved the chill to voice their support for a unified effort to oppose discriminatory executive orders from President Trump.
“There are a number of certain communities that are being targeted, and the issue is important to me,” Baltimore resident Lubna Najar, who is of Muslim descent, told the Blade at the rally. “LGBTQ activists have always supported the Muslim community, and I want to support the LGBTQ community in solidarity.”
Scott Businsky of Bel Air, Md. is straight and felt the need to show support.
“With all the rhetoric about religious freedom and discrimination, it is important that people understand the issues. It’s also important for allies to join in the struggle to achieve LGBTQ rights.”
Brian Gaither, a co-founder of the Pride Foundation of Maryland, was the principal organizer of the Baltimore rally, which consisted of an open mic format. He urged those in attendance to hold elected officials accountable to protect hard-earned rights.
“It’s important to put pressure on all elected officials including the governor and the General Assembly to affirm and uphold the laws that were passed,” Gaither spoke into a bullhorn. “Anyone who is not white, straight, cisgender or male can be targeted.”
Gaither gave out the telephone number for Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, 410-974-3901, for people to call.
Matt Thorn addressed the crowd, and after explaining the contents of the draft order stated, “All the executive orders are bad executive orders and will be knocked down.”
AIDS health care advocate Akil Patterson said he had been going around the country to fight religious freedom laws and pointed to then-Gov. Mike Pence’s Indiana as an example of how we can win.
“We will win again. Health care is a human and civil right,” said Patterson, who works for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He led the crowd in chants of “Resist! Resist Resist!”
State Del. Luke Clippinger (D-46), who is gay, told the Blade, “Our rights are not negotiable. We have to make sure our marriage rights and transgender rights are protected and everyone should be treated equally.”
Some 46 miles west at Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, about 125 people assembled to hear a variety of speakers oppose the executive orders. They included Liz Barrett, vice president of the Fredrick County Board of Education; James Van Kuilenburg, president, Thomas Johnson High School GSA; Lois Jarman, president of PFLAG Frederick County; Pastor Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ and the only openly gay pastor in the city of Frederick; and Kris Fair.
“We were truly moved by the outpouring of support tonight as we stood with other rallies across the state bringing attention to the dangerous musings of the current administration,” Fair told the Blade.
The Pride Foundation of Maryland said in a statement, “We ask all LGBTQ Marylanders to join us in standing against the bigotry emanating from the White House and its current occupant. The rights of women, minorities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community are inseparable. When any of us is threatened, we must all respond.”