Adam Polaski

Equality Maryland Announces New Goals as Board President Resigns

Filed By Adam Polaski | June 01, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Charles Butler, Equality Maryland, financial crisis, LGBT orgs, Listening Tour

EqualityMaryland.jpgCharles Butler, the board president of Equality Maryland's lobbying arm, resigned today, a week after the organization admitted its dire financial instability. A new chairperson has not yet been named.

Equality Maryland also distributed a statement regarding its short-term goals as an organization. The plan, according to the release, is to increase fundraising by refocusing on individual donations, heighten the diversity of the organization's board, and involve the local LGBT community more in the overall direction of the organization.

The board of directors asserted that they were taking into consideration the community's concerns about the longevity of the organization:

As we announced last Tuesday, the financial situation of Equality Maryland is very serious. We are also hearing clearly through our Listening Tour that people in Maryland want to see significant change in how we operate. As custodians of the statewide community's equality organization, we are committed to building an Equality Maryland that takes community input into consideration and that relies on a sustainable funding model.

A new contract with interim executive director Lynne Bowman begins today. The new month-to-month contract steers Bowman's responsibilities away from external advocacy and more toward managing internal operations, which saves the organization money.

Several more stops are scheduled on the organization's Listening Tour for residents to express their concerns with Equality Maryland.

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I'm glad to hear that they're listening to the community. I hope they find a way to save this statewide organization.

I'm sort of floundering, politically and personally, in how to respond to the various news out of EqMD. I grew up in MD and try to give at least a little bit to the organization each year, but I'm unsure how to proceed and how to evaluate the continual turnover of executive directors. On the one hand, they seem to hire people to do grassroots organizing, and even try to do grassroots organizing among folks who aren't cis white men, which is a plus (and stands in stark contrast to the behavior of the statewide equality group in my current state of residence), but on the other hand statewide legislation hasn't seemed to move recently (the executive orders from O'Malley have been nice).

Would any of the closer observers of EqMD here care to weigh in with some analysis of why they've gone 3(?) EDs in the last 2-3 years? And from where their problems stem (a weak board? a conflicted board? contradictory pressure from national groups/funders?)? I'm genuinely trying to evaluate continuing to give to them, and also how to talk about them to my friends/family who are donors.

I can only speak for what happened this past year but the reason seems for this last ED departure seems to be decisions made that fractured the GLBT community here in MD. During the fight for marriage equality EQMD was hyping that the fight was in the MD Senate. The day after they won the vote in the Senate they decided to hold a "party" to celebrate. Now the bill still needed to pass the House but I still believe to this day that EQMD felt they had it in the bag and was doing a victory lap. This was the beginning of my doubts.
Fast forward until the days before the votes. EQMD was putting out e-mails encouraging people to be there for the historic vote. Not in one of the e-mails was there a hint that the vote was in trouble. It was the only the day of the vote that we found out the votes weren't there. Instead of bringing it to a vote pressure was exerted from groups like HRC and Freedom To Marry to not have a vote because they felt it would compromise RI and NY. The anger from many in the community including myself was immediate.
People started posting their disatifaction on EQMD's Facebook page. Most were angry but polite and were deleted. This showed a tone deafness to the community especially those like myself who had given money. I discovered that the same thing had been going on for much longer with members of the transgender community. If there's a silver lining it made me start noticing the issues facing the transgender community.
Of course next on the plate was the transgender protection bill which EQMD had already agreed to strip PA out of the bill. They kept telling people it needed to be done to get the bill passed. Well we know where that went to. That I think was the final straw. Now if it was Morgan's decisions on these or not we may never know but as ED someone had to go.
Now EQMD finds themselves in dire straights. They have money issues but many donors like myself refuse to give money unless we see signs that changes are going to be made. Frankly I don't have a lot of faith.

Thanks Tim, this is helpful.