Bil Browning

Future of Equality Maryland In Doubt

Filed By Bil Browning | May 25, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Equality Maryland, financial crisis, LGBT orgs, Morgan Meneses-Sheets

The future of Equality Maryland is in doubt after the group's board of directors released a statement yesterday admitting the group is in serious financial peril. eqpic.JPGThe org suffered humiliating defeats this legislative session after bills to provide civil rights protections for transgender people and marriage equality for gays and lesbians failed despite overwhelming support.

The group's former Executive Director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, was fired earlier this year after the legislation went down in flames. The group named Lynne Bowman, former Executive Director of Equality Ohio, as interim leader following Meneses-Sheets departure.

The group needs $20-25k to pay current staff salaries and rent. Equality Maryland has two full-time staffers other than Bowman.

The board's e-mailed statement is after the jump.

Dear friends, allies, and supporters of LGBT equality:

We are writing to inform the community of a critical situation with respect to Equality Maryland. You have entrusted us with the stewardship of this organization. So we feel it's necessary to share with you an accurate picture of the state of this important community resource and what our hope is for Equality Maryland's future.

Based on our listening tour across the state, we know that you want Equality Maryland to survive and succeed. Equality Maryland needs your support, including financially, to make that happen.

Since late 2010, when we assumed our leadership roles on the Board of Directors, we have become increasingly aware of deficiencies in the organization. We realized early on that we had to take action to rectify these problems. At the same time, we were focused on advancing the gender identity anti-discrimination and marriage equality bills, which had their first real opportunity for success in the 2011 General Assembly. We thus attempted to manage the organization's problems through internal controls without making any changes that could undermine the viability of either bill.

As you know, the gender identity and marriage bills did not pass. However, they progressed significantly further than ever before, and are positioned for a successful outcome in the near future. For this, we owe much gratitude to all who made this achievement possible, including Maryland's LGBT community, the staff of Equality Maryland, state and national partner organizations, Maryland's openly gay and lesbian legislators, and all our allied legislators and public officials.

Last month the board of Directors took a step that we had hoped to avoid, but was necessary to restore the organization's integrity and viability - we voted to remove the Executive Director. We took this action with regret, but because our duty as guardians of Equality Maryland compelled it. We also regret that the Executive Director resigned while we were in the process of negotiating an amicable separation.

We subsequently received assistance from the Equality Federation in obtaining an Interim Executive Director who could stabilize and assess the organization. Based on an analysis that revealed certain factors previously unknown to the Board of Directors, we now understand that Equality Maryland's financial status is in worse condition than we had realized.

We intend to take additional steps to keep Equality Maryland viable. We also want you to have a voice in the organization's future and need your assistance to keep the organization alive. Please support and stand with Equality Maryland.

Thank you.

Respectfully,

Equality Maryland Board of Directors - Chuck Butler, Patrick Wojahn, Lisa Polyak, Rosemary Nicolosi, Darrell Carrington, David Lublin, and Mark Yost


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It's always rough to see organizations like this falter, but when they're mismanaged, there aren't too many excuses that can be made. Perhaps new organizations, like the just-launched Gender Rights Maryland (http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/19302/gender-rights-maryland-debuts-ahead-of-schedule-for-a-good-cause) will be able to more effectively set and meet goals.

Along the lines of the article the other day on how the Recession might be good for LGBT equality, maybe this recession will be a time of purging of LGBT organizations that have developed over the last three decades that follow a non-profit model for civil rights and shun the civil rights movement's model for civil rights. We will never be able to outfundraise Corporate America. The Labor movement refuses to learn that, so maybe we can re-discover the roots of our movement and see that our power is NOT in the voting booth, but in the streets and in our workplaces.

No one talks about the fundamental conservatizing effect that lobbying and following the non-profit model has on movements. "LGBT advocacy" is one thing, but when you factor in having to raise money for staff, for employee benefits, insurance, rent, etc. you begin to introduce contradictory goals into you work. Is it progress to have a nicely funded LGBT org that pays its employees minimum wage with no benefits or union rights?