The Boston Globe is reporting that Mass Equality is debating whether or not to disband the organization, after winning marriage equality in Massachusetts.
The debate is creating tensions among onetime allies. Some gay leaders believe MassEquality should broaden its mission to include issues such as transgender rights and HIV/AIDS, while others disagree and say expanding Mass-Equality's agenda to other gay and lesbian causes could dilute its effectiveness, crowd out smaller groups that advocate for gay rights, and alienate some lawmakers and donors who supported same-sex marriage. They believe the group should stay focused on its original mission and perhaps share its expertise with gay-marriage advocates in other states.
Interestingly enough, former Deputy Campaign Director of MassEquality, Jeremy Pittman, said in April of 2006 on GenderTalk that::
There are lots of issues out there in Massachusetts that we could be working on. I'm very much looking forward to being able to beat back the marriage battle, these marriage amendments, so that we can move on to passing a trans civil rights bill.
That would be a great thing, considering that gays and lesbians have had a law in place since 1989 that prevented discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and public accommodations. Gays and lesbians in Massachusetts have enjoyed these protections for 18 years! But some still think it's not the time (again from the Boston Globe):
'I think it's naive for us to wander around in other areas that may have different levels of controversy and may dilute our ability to support legislators who are with us' on marriage, said one significant MassEquality donor and fund-raiser. 'The value of this organization is that it has meant what it has said, so it can't say, 'Well, we're supporting transgender rights, but - wink, nod - we will stay with you even if you don't.'
The donor voiced the fear that MassEquality could alienate some of its more conservative donors, creating the chance that the gay community would have to build a new coalition should a threat to same-sex marriage resurface in Massachusetts.
That is absurd. MassEquality wouldn't alienate anyone in the legislature by supporting transgender equality. Most legislators are smart enough to distinguish between two separate legislative efforts. This isn't an ENDA type situation where the community is tied together in one bill. MassEquality's funding and office staff alone could help an organization like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
It's pathetic that a money and resource rich organization like MassEquality can't seem to find a mission now that the marriage fight is over with, while the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition teeters on the verge of financial collapse. It's pathetic that not one person from Mass Equality joined in MTPC's lobby days. If now is not the time for the GLB community of Massachusetts to stand with the transgender community, when will it be?