December 22, 2020 at 10:50 am EST | by Philip Van Slooten
FreeState Justice announces 2021 legislative agenda
conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by Chad Zajdowicz via Flickr)

FreeState Justice on Monday announced part of its 2021 advocacy agenda includes LGBTQ measures that failed in the Maryland General Assembly’s previous session that ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The group’s 2021 agenda includes a carryover of a bill to ban the so-called panic defense, a default publication waiver for name change notices and an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination measure that would protect individuals in long-term care facilities.

Other bills FreeState Justice will track include legislation to make it easier for transgender and non-binary spouses and parents to update their marriage and birth certificates, a Youth and Families Protection Act to ensure foster care agencies do not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity in light of the Fulton case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and police-free schools and other decriminalization efforts.

There were health care-related items mentioned as well during the Zoom meeting. These include access to over-the-counter PrEP and PEP, the decriminalization of HIV transmission and an effort to close gaps in the state’s conversion therapy ban where providers could send individuals to practitioners out of the state or country.

“We still consider this child abuse,” FreeState Justice Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told attendees.

FreeState Justice CP Hoffman told attendees the 2021 agenda is not as robust as in previous years due to so much being left over during the previous legislative session, particularly coronavirus-related items.

“If it feels the agenda this year is not as comprehensive as it might have been,” Hoffman said. “It is because there are so many other things legislators are having to deal with right now.”

When asked what their plan was for grassroots advocacy in support of LGBTQ legislation with access to lawmakers being restricted due to pandemic precautions, LaMaster said there was no clear answer.

However, he said FreeState Justice would be working on advocacy toolkits with language and talking points for engaging legislators and communities via email and social media. FreeState Justice will also keep their online policy dashboard and bill tracker up-to-date and keep the community current via online meetings.

“We’re trying to adapt to a whole new way of doing policy work,” LaMaster said at the close of the virtual meeting.

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