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LGBT Rights on the Edge

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Living in the DC metropolitan area, I always find myself going back and forth with my joy and sorrow when it comes to the progress that LGBT issues have made in recent years. In Virginia, I had to put up with the devastating passage of the Marshall-Newman amendment in 2006. But recently in DC, I was elated to see full marriage equality be signed into law. My excitement continued when DADT was repealed by the Senate and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley vowed to sign marriage equality into law. Then my hopes were diminished when the Maryland legislature failed to act properly.

Now I find myself reading a lot about the organization that was leading the fight for marriage equality in Maryland, Equality Maryland. In April, the board of directors for the organization convened a Sunday evening meeting of the board of directors and voted to fire their executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets. Because of this, the group’s development director, Matthew Thorn, decided to leave along with Meneses-Sheets. Then at the beginning of the month, the chair of the Equality Maryland board, Charles Butler, resigned his position after he publicly blamed Meneses-Sheets for the group’s financial problems. These are not the only staff problems that Equality Maryland has dealt with. Meneses-Sheets was the third executive director the group has had since 2008. Many other top staffers have not had very long stints in their positions.

Am I the only person who finds these to be examples of completely childish behavior? This is supposed to be an organization that is dedicated to fighting for the betterment of humanity through the legislation of equal rights for all. Instead, these staff shake-ups reflect something that resembles the student council at a middle school.

Now this should not be taken as a criticism of the volunteers and helpers at Equality Maryland who have given their free time to work for a better state. The people who work on the ground and their coordinators deserve a huge amount of credit for helping the issues of equality come as far as they have in the past year.

But the staff of Equality Maryland finds themselves at an unprecedented place in history. Marriage equality passed the state senate and only narrowly failed the house, but the organization is also on the brink of completely collapsing. Instead of getting rid of people and calling people names, they need to rise above level of petty politics because, while they are dealing with politicians, they are also representing a cause and as representatives of that cause, it is their duty to make sure they reflect well on it. If they fail they could set the goals of equality back for several years. And what would be gained if that were to happen? Just a lot of bickering and crappy name-calling that ultimately hurts average gay people just trying to make a living for themselves.