Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director, Dr. Dana Beyer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
In a statement signed by Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dr. Dana Beyer and board chair Sharon Brackett, the state‚Äôs only civil rights organization exclusively representing trans people announced significant progress has been made in assuring fair and equal implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for transgender Marylanders this October. Maryland is not only on schedule to implement the ACA, but because of early acceptance of the act, it will be among the first states to roll it out this fall.
As part of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange (MHBE), the ACA requires that the MHBE be administered in such a manner as to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, and assess progress in providing access to care and compile data reflecting any disparities encountered, on an annual basis.
Recognizing that discrimination is illegal, the Governor‚Äôs Office of Healthcare Reform, the Health Benefits Exchange, and the Maryland Insurance Commissioner are now reviewing the plans to ensure full and equal access to care, with the goal to bring Maryland into line with jurisdictions such as California, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia that have taken the lead over the past year.
Dan Massey (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)
Washington, D.C. resident Dan Massey, a scientist and technology development executive who advocated for LGBT rights and sexual freedom causes, died Jan. 28 following a battle with cancer. He was 70.
Local activists who knew Massey said he and his wife and partner of 35 years, Alison Gardner, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to raise money and provide support for a wide range of local and national LGBT and sexual freedom advocacy organizations.
‚ÄúDan was a gentle and generous soul, and will be missed by the many people he helped and inspired,‚ÄĚ said Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington.
‚ÄúHe was always helping someone,‚ÄĚ Rosendall said. ‚ÄúI do not know anything nicer to say about anyone. Our hearts go out to Dan‚Äôs wife and soul mate, GAA Secretary Alison Gardner.‚ÄĚ
A biography of Massey published on Wikipedia and distributed by Gardner says Massey‚Äôs professional career was in the fields of computer science and information technology.
He was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University and authored seven books in the fields of artificial intelligence, probability and statistics, and managing computers in business, according to the biography.
He worked as chief engineer for the Cambridge, Mass., based firm BBN Technologies from 1972 to 1992. He worked from 1994 until his retirement in January 2011 for Science Applications International Corporation in Vienna, Va.
While working in the field of science, Massey teamed up with Gardner over the past 20 years or longer to advocate for sexual freedom and the elimination of societal bias and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, his biography says.
Massey served for more than 20 years on the executive committee of the Urantia Book Fellowship and founded the Urantia Society of Central Connecticut. The two groups seek to study and carry out spiritual and philosophical teachings of an early to middle 20th century collection of spiritual writings¬†known as the Urantia Papers.
He also served on the Advisory Council of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance; the Policy Advisory Board of Gender Rights Maryland, a transgender advocacy organization; and the ‚ÄúWikiQueer‚ÄĚ Global Advisory Board, according to information provided by Gardner.
In recent years, activists got to know Massey and Gardner through the sexual freedom organization and blog they founded in 2009 called VenusPlusX. Its stated purpose is to ‚Äúinform and uplift‚ÄĚ the ideals of sexual liberation ‚Äúthrough education, training, and communications to support and accelerate the New Age.‚ÄĚ
Its website, which Gardner continues to publish, VenusPlusX.com, says the group adopted its name from a science fiction novel that takes place in a ‚Äúpost-gender future.‚ÄĚ The website says the group‚Äôs members are inspired from ‚Äútwo famous androgynous, transgender U.S.A. icons ‚Äď the Statue of Liberty and ‚ÄúColumbia,‚ÄĚ the statue on top of the U.S. Capitol dome.
Transgender activist Dana Beyer, co-founder of Gender Rights Maryland, called Massey a champion of transgender rights.
‚ÄúDan called himself an androgyne,‚ÄĚ Beyer told the Blade. ‚ÄúHe did not view himself as male or female.‚ÄĚ
In a tribute to Massey in the Huffington Post last week, Beyer said Massey‚Äôs most important legacy is his ‚Äúpassionate advocacy over the years in support of social justice for all.‚ÄĚ
The VenusPlusX blog says Massey and Gardner sought to advance their sexual freedom advocacy through ‚Äúa new concept of the intrinsic value of sex and gender expression, of personal erotic freedom, to replace millennia of unreasoned ignorance, fear, and hatred with the true joy of Love.‚ÄĚ
In addition to Gardner, Massey is survived by his son Ross and daughter Tiye.
A memorial service for Massey is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1:30 p.m. at the Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th St., N.W., which overlooks Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park.
In lieu of flowers, Gardner said Massey requested that contributions be made to D.C.‚Äôs Latino LGBT community center Casa Ruby; the newly endowed Dan Massey Transleadership Scholarship Fund; ‚Äúor a charity of your choice.‚ÄĚ
State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
ANNAPOLIS, Md.‚ÄďA Maryland state Senate committee on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
‚ÄúMany of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,‚ÄĚ state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County,) who introduced Senate Bill 449 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 late last month with state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County,) said. He noted lawmakers in 2001 added sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression to Maryland‚Äôs anti-discrimination law. ‚ÄúI come before you today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 449 with my good friend from Montgomery County and ask you to fix this omission and ensure that all Marylanders, including my transgender sisters and brothers, are afforded protection under our anti-discrimination laws.‚ÄĚ
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, agreed.
‚ÄúThe protections in Senate Bill 449 are needed in real people‚Äôs lives,‚ÄĚ she said.
Former Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union and Liz Seaton of the National Center for Lesbian Rights are among the more than two dozen SB 449 proponents who testified.
‚ÄúIt is difficult to see your child struggle through life because they are transgender,‚ÄĚ Millie Jean Byrd said as she spoke about her trans daughter who also testified in support of SB 449.
Caroline Temmermand said her credit card company lowered her credit limit from $5,500 to $200 after she legally changed her name.
‚ÄúWhen you talk about transgender folks, we have families,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúYou discriminate against us, you discriminate against my family.‚ÄĚ
Alex Hickcox of Hyattsville spoke about the fear he said he experiences at work because of his gender identity and expression.
‚ÄúEveryone in Maryland deserves a safe work environment free from potential harassment or actual harassment and discrimination,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúEveryone in this great state deserves to feel like they have a voice and they don‚Äôt have to be silent.‚ÄĚ
Baltimore City, along with Baltimore and Howard and Montgomery Counties have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.
Sixteen states and D.C. ban anti-trans discrimination, but SB 449 opponents maintain the bill is unnecessary.
‚ÄúThis bill will force the state and private actors ‚ÄĒ employers, landlords and others who provide public services ‚ÄĒ to officially and legally affirm the very delusion that puts these suffering individuals at odds with reality,‚ÄĚ Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said. ‚ÄúNot only will it not makes their lives better, but it will prevent them from getting the very help they do need to make their lives better.‚ÄĚ
Elaine McDermott and Ruth Jacobs of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government are among those who also testified against the measure. Rev. Derek McCoy of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law Gov. Martin O‚ÄôMalley signed last year, attended a portion of the hearing.
Marriage referendum provided ‚Äėfoundation of understanding‚Äô
The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.
O‚ÄôMalley, who signed Baltimore City‚Äôs trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor of the Charm City, told the Washington Blade on Monday he is ‚Äúabsolutely‚ÄĚ reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. Senate President Thomas V. ‚ÄúMike‚ÄĚ Miller (D-Prince George‚Äôs and Calvert Counties) also backs the proposal.
A spokesperson for state Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) told the Blade on Tuesday he ‚Äúhasn‚Äôt made up his mind on the issue.‚ÄĚ State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George‚Äôs County) and Norman Stone, Jr., (D-Baltimore County) also remain undecided.
State Sen. Rich Madaleno, Dana Beyer and state Sen. Jamie Raskin. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, and other advocates remain optimistic SB 449 has enough votes in committee to send it to the full Senate. Madaleno said members of the LGBT legislative caucus ‚Äúmeet regularly with the whole coalition‚ÄĚ in anticipation of the bill going to the House of Delegates.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôve managed to get it passed before,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a matter of laying the groundwork, keeping everyone up to date.‚ÄĚ
State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) told the Blade on Monday she feels the passage of last November‚Äôs same-sex marriage referendum laid what she described as ‚Äúa foundation for understanding‚ÄĚ of civil rights for all Marylanders.
‚ÄúYou can make the case that everyone who‚Äôs different deserves all the same opportunities and rights and responsibilities of our society,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThat was the case we made for marriage and we‚Äôre continuing to make it for our transgender friends.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúAll people are asking is each person in this state, every one in this state, all of our constituents are entitled to the same rights and privileges that everybody else has,‚ÄĚ he said.
Advocates stress unity
Beyer said during her testimony she remains more optimistic about the bill‚Äôs chances this year, in part, because voters last November upheld the state‚Äôs same-sex marriage law. She also cited the American Psychiatric Association‚Äôs decision late last year to remove Gender Identity Disorder from its list of mental disorders as additional progress on trans rights.
‚ÄúThis year is different,‚ÄĚ Beyer said. ‚ÄúThis year the arc of the moral universe will bring justice to Maryland.‚ÄĚ
The committee is expected to vote on whether to send SB 449 to the full Senate by next Thursday.
Meanwhile, the measure‚Äôs supporters maintain they hopeful lawmakers will support the proposal.
‚ÄúUltimately we are all united in our drive to achieve fairness for trans Marylanders,‚ÄĚ Keith Thirion of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality told the Blade after the hearing ended. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt let go of that.‚ÄĚ
Connie O‚ÄôMalley of Baltimore agreed.
‚ÄúEverybody is really focused on the goal, which is to protect the vulnerable people that need the protection,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe are doing our best to focus on staying united on that goal.‚ÄĚ
Maryland state Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-District 41) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
A Maryland state Senate committee on Thursday struck down a bill that would have banned anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
The 6-5 vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee came slightly more than two weeks after it held a hearing on Senate Bill 449 ‚ÄĒ the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 ‚ÄĒ that state Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced.
Raskin along with state Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County,) Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City,) Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) voted for SB 449. Senators Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County,) C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County,) Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties,) James Brochin (D-Baltimore County,) Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.
“Despite months of hard work by our broad coalition of supporters, key committee members were unwilling to advance the promise of equality under the law to the transgender community,” Madaleno said in an e-mail he sent to his constituents after the vote. “A majority of committee members were unwilling to pass a bill that prohibited discrimination by restaurants, theaters, hotels, shopping centers and other places of public accommodations. Their lack of understanding and empathy for their fellow Marylanders is appalling.”
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, also expressed outrage.
“Bigotry won the day, and I say that because the sponsor bent over backward to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues,” she told the Washington Blade. “None of it was good enough, nor did they then offer any solution themselves other than to strip out public accommodations protections entirely.”
‚ÄúIt is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans added.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, and other SB 449 opponents testified against the measure during the Feb. 26 committee hearing.
‚ÄúThis bill will force the state and private actors ‚ÄĒ employers, landlords and others who provide public services ‚ÄĒ to officially and legally affirm the very delusion that puts these suffering individuals at odds with reality,‚ÄĚ Sprigg said. ‚ÄúNot only will it not makes their lives better, but it will prevent them from getting the very help they do need to make their lives better.‚ÄĚ
The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.
Governor Martin O‚ÄôMalley, who signed Baltimore City‚Äôs trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor, told the Washington Blade last month he was ‚Äúabsolutely‚ÄĚ reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) and other gay state lawmakers with whom the Blade spoke after the committee‚Äôs Feb. 26 hearing stressed the passage of last November‚Äôs referendum on the same-sex marriage law O‚ÄôMalley signed had provided a foundation of support upon which they thought the measure could have passed.
Senate President Thomas V. ‚ÄúMike‚ÄĚ Miller (D-Prince George‚Äôs and Calvert Counties) also backed SB 449.
“It is now 14 years since transgender protections were stripped from LGBT anti-discrimination legislation by the General Assembly,” Donna Cartwright of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality said. “It’s long past time for the legislature to take meaningful action to address the severe discrimination and disadvantage that trans people face.”
Baltimore County, of which Brochin represents portions in Annapolis, along with Montgomery and Howard Counties and Baltimore City have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.
“[Brochin] had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill,” Evans said. “Despite this, he turned his back on these voters. It ironic that transgender people in his own district [Baltimore County] have protections yet he wouldn‚Äôt cast a vote to extend these protections to individuals in the 20 counties that aren‚Äôt so fortunate.‚ÄĚ
Sixteen states and D.C. currently ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Madaleno and other SB 449 supporters vow they will continue to fight to protect trans Marylanders from discrimination.
“This fight is not over, and together we continue undeterred on our path to full equality and freedom for all,” Madaleno said.
“Equality Maryland will come back every year until transgender Marylanders are afforded the right to be free from discrimination in their jobs, homes, and places of public accommodations,‚Äú added Evans.
Miller has publicly backed the proposed measure that gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will formally sponsor. He and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) are expected to champion the bill in the chamber.
Gov. Martin O‚ÄôMalley, who signed the state‚Äôs first anti-trans discrimination law in 2002 when he was the mayor of Baltimore, also backs the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre very optimistic this year because the world has changed,‚ÄĚ Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer told the Washington Blade. ‚ÄúThe attitudes of not only the voters who proved on Nov. 6 that they‚Äôre supportive of progressive issues such as marriage equality and the Dream Act, but also the legislators have noticed that and are feeling a little bit emboldened.‚ÄĚ
Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans shared Beyer‚Äôs optimism.
The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality has grown to include CASA de Maryland, Progressive Maryland and 17 other organizations. Equality Maryland has posted a petition on its website in support of the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act
Evans said this group is ‚Äúmodeling ourselves off of the‚ÄĚ campaign in support of the same-sex marriage referendum that passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.
‚ÄúWe have an incredible window here in 2013 with the strength of the coalition, the good feelings everybody has about Equality Maryland,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe are going full surge ahead and hopefully passing this once and for all in 2013.‚ÄĚ
A proposed assault weapons ban in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 students and six administrators dead and efforts to repeal the state‚Äôs death penalty are among the issues expected to dominate this year‚Äôs legislative agenda in Annapolis, but Evans highlighted other issues on which she and other advocates hope to work in the coming year.
These include working with Attorney General Doug Gansler and other officials to ensure the state‚Äôs same-sex marriage law that took effect on Jan. 1 is properly implemented. She pointed to insurance and tax-related issues for same-sex couples and making sure state agencies have provisions that include gender-neutral references are top priorities.
Evans said she expects most of these changes will take place through new regulations or administrative tweaks, but ‚Äúthey are working on answering the question of redoing all of the areas of state law and what needs to be done legislatively. Strengthening Maryland‚Äôs anti-bullying laws is another priority.
‚ÄúThe problem has always been making sure once the law is passed it is implemented at all levels,‚ÄĚ Evans said.
Va. bill would ban anti-LGBT bias
Virginia lawmakers are expected to consider a measure during their legislative session that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.
State Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced Senate Bill 701 last October. The state Senate passed similar measures in 2010 and 2011, but they stalled in the House of Delegates.
‚ÄúWhile our biggest challenge is the House of Delegates, this will be an opportunity to get legislators on the record for pro-LGBT legislation and see if they are really supporting equality and their constituency this election year,‚ÄĚ he said.
Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin is a Senate Bill 710 co-sponsor (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)
Ebbin told the Blade he expects the Senate General Law Committee could potentially hear SB 701 in the coming weeks.
‚ÄúThe bill has passed the Senate before, but failed in the General Laws and Technology Committee last session,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a sometimes challenging environment because there‚Äôs Republican control of that committee, but we‚Äôre working hard and hope there will be a breakthrough this year.‚ÄĚ
Del. legislators expected to debate marriage
Delaware lawmakers are expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill between now and the end of their current legislative session on June 30.
Spokesperson Catherine Rossi reiterated that point to the Blade.
‚ÄúThe governor expects that a marriage equality bill will be worked this session,‚ÄĚ she said.
House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) described efforts to place a same-sex marriage bill on the 2013 legislative agenda as a ‚Äúno-brainer‚ÄĚ during an interview with the News-Journal on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) added she expects Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) to introduce the measure.
Both legislators co-sponsored the civil unions bill.
Gays and lesbians can legally marry in neighboring Maryland and eight other states and D.C. Lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island are expected to consider similar measures in the coming weeks.
Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Seventeen local, state and national organizations have joined with individual activists to form the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, in a broad effort to fight for trans rights.
MCTE‚Äôs mission is to advance equal rights for transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people in Maryland through leadership, collaborative decision-making processes and resources.
Over the spring and summer of 2012, MCTE held several listening sessions across the state. Through these sessions MCTE asked community members to share their vision of progress for trans people in the state. Attendees articulated a demand for a broader coalition to do this work. Acting on that directive, MCTE has brought together numerous organizations working for equality and justice in Maryland.
‚ÄúEquality Maryland embraces doing this vital work in a coalition that has trans individuals at the center of decision-making,‚ÄĚ said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland in a statement. ‚ÄúWe witnessed the power of a coalition winning and preserving marriage equality and we are confident this model will succeed for trans equality.‚ÄĚ
Other organizations in the coalition include ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Black Pride, FreeState Legal Project, Maryland NOW (National Organization for Women), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and PFLAG. For more information, visit mdtransequality.org.
Dana Beyer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 that gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced has more than 20 co-sponsors. These include state Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County.)
The proposal died in committee last April because Senate President Thomas V. ‚ÄúMike‚ÄĚ Miller (D-Prince George‚Äôs and Calvert Counties) reportedly blocked a vote on it. Miller has since backed the proposal.
“Put simply, the process of passing a bill requires that you line up the votes you need to make it through a chamber,‚ÄĚ Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, told the Washington Blade. ‚ÄúThat process is eased considerably when those legislators are willing to sign on as co-sponsors. I am very pleased we can show this degree of support in the Senate, which I attribute to the diligent work of Senators Madaleno and Raskin and their staffs. The trans community should be very hopeful that this is the year.”
Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans also welcomed the proposal’s introduction.
“The protections in this bill are long overdue,” she said. “We are confident the General Assembly will demonstrate, as they did in 2012, that we are a state that treats all of its citizens with dignity and equality under the law.”
Maryland is among the 21 states and D.C. that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, while the nation‚Äôs capital and 16 states have passed laws that ban anti-trans discrimination.
But two of the nation‚Äôs leading anti-gay groups warned that if the BSA‚Äôs board votes next week to drop its ban on gays, as predicted by sources familiar with the Boy Scouts, it would lead to a ‚Äúmass exodus‚ÄĚ of scouts and scout leaders from traditional, religious-oriented families and communities.
In its statement released on Monday, the BSA said the change it was considering would allow the religious, civic and educational organizations that are chartered to operate scouting units throughout the country to make the final decision on¬†whether or not to accept gays.
‚ÄúCurrently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,‚ÄĚ the statement says.
‚ÄúThis would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization‚Äôs mission, principles, or religious beliefs,‚ÄĚ says the statement.
‚ÄúBSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families,‚ÄĚ it says.
Janelle Moritz, a public relations representative for the Boy Scouts of America, told the Blade she could not confirm the NBC report about the timing of a board meeting or what the board would decide. She said BSA would not comment on the matter beyond what it said in its statement, which doesn‚Äôt say when the group will decide on the issue.
Other news media outlets, however, reported that BSA sources confirmed that the board meeting would take place next week, mostly likely at the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
‚ÄúThe Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations, and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,‚ÄĚ said Herndon Graddick, president of¬†the¬†Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. ‚ÄúScouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThis would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,‚ÄĚ said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. ‚ÄúWe look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.‚ÄĚ
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts‚Äô expected policy change follows the growing support for LGBT equality from the American people.
‚ÄúThe pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,‚ÄĚ Griffin said in a statement. ‚ÄúOur nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it‚Äôs time the Boy Scouts echo those values.‚ÄĚ
A far different response emerged from leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two national conservative groups that oppose LGBT rights.
‚ÄúThe Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,‚ÄĚ said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.
‚ÄúThe mission of the Boy Scouts is to ‚Äėinstill values in young people‚Äô and ‚Äėprepare them to make ethical choices,‚Äô and the Scouts‚Äô oath includes a pledge ‚Äėto do my duty to God‚Äô and keep himself ‚Äėmorally straight,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.‚ÄĚ
The American Family Associated posted on its website a column by anti-gay advocate Bryan Fischer, who quipped that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach convicted on child molestation charges, would become ‚Äúthe new poster boy‚ÄĚ for the Boy Scouts.
‚ÄúThis move, unless the BSA dramatically reverses itself in the immediate future, represents the capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe Scouts will have made a deliberate decision to put the sexual integrity of every young man in their care at risk.‚ÄĚ
Within a day of the BSA‚Äôs announcement that it was considering changing its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders, the FRC and the American Family Association posted appeals on their websites urging members and supporters to call the BSA to urge the group to leave its ban on gays in place.
‚ÄúAs the BSA board meets next week, it is crucial that they hear from those who stand with them and their current policy regarding homosexuality,‚ÄĚ FRC said.
Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.
‚ÄúThe Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents,‚ÄĚ the statement says. ‚ÄúUnder this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization‚Äôs mission, principles or religious beliefs.‚ÄĚ
The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.
‚ÄúOf these, 64.9 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations, 22.7 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations, and 7.9 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations,‚ÄĚ it says.
It says the chartered organizations are responsible for providing meeting facilities, providing ‚Äúquality leadership for the scouting unit,‚ÄĚ and appointing a representative to coordinate unit operations
A list of BSA chartered organizations posted on its website shows a wide range of religious and civic groups that are likely to differ on whether or not to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.
Among them are the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and ‚ÄúBaptist Churches,‚ÄĚ which traditionally have condemned homosexuality. Others, however, include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Lutheran churches, which have had more accepting policies toward LGBT people.
Civic groups listed on the BSA website as chartered organizations include local Chambers of Commerce, Lions and Rotary clubs, American Legion organizations, Boys‚Äô and Girls‚Äô Clubs, YMCA groups, ‚Äúnon-profit agencies,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúhome owners‚ÄĚ groups.
The BSA‚Äôs statement saying it is considering removing its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders comes seven months after the BSA announced it had conducted a two-year review of the ban and decided to leave it in place.
Monday‚Äôs announcement also comes after several prominent corporations, including United Parcel Service and Intel Corporation, withdrew as BSA financial sponsors, saying the gay ban violated their corporate polices of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Others opposing the Boy Scouts ban on gays have organized online petition drives that have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on the BSA to drop its gay ban.
Sharon Brackett, co-founder and board chair of the statewide transgender advocacy organization Gender Rights Maryland, said she experienced firsthand how at least some Boy Scout troops and the chartered organizations that operate them are LGBT supportive.
Brackett said she served as a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop in Savage, Md., where her sons were members, before she transitioned from male to female. She said after taking a break during her transition period, the troop and a local Methodist church that served as the chartered organization, welcomed her back once she completed her gender transition.
‚ÄúMy experience has been positive,‚ÄĚ she said, noting that women have long served as Boy Scout troop leaders and officials in the chartered organization covering her area had no problem with her coming back.
Brackett said she supports the proposed change by the BSA to leave it up to the chartered organizations to decide whether gay scouts or troops can be admitted. At least in Maryland, she said, there are enough local troops and chartered organizations to choose from that would result in gay youth finding one that will be welcoming.
‚ÄúHaving that choice is the best next step for us at this time,‚ÄĚ she said.
As the Maryland General Assembly considers SB449‚ÄĒthe Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013‚ÄĒthat would ban discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity or expression, the Baltimore County chapter of PFLAG will devote its Feb. 26 meeting to understanding transgender issues.
Sharon Brackett, board chair of Gender Rights Maryland, will present ‚ÄúTrans 101,‚ÄĚ an introductory speech on transgender issues in our society and in our area. She will define basic terms and answer general questions, as well as provide more detailed explanations of the specific implications of being a gender non-conforming individual.
The meeting will take place from 7-9 p.m. at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Rd., Baltimore. For more information, visit pflagbaltimore.org or call 443-255-1484.
The chapter was instrumental in the passage of a gender identity non-discrimination bill in Baltimore County last year.
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide group that led the lobbying campaign for the state bill, said supporters were gearing up to push for the bill‚Äôs passage in the legislature in 2013.
Beyer said that while advocates were disappointed in the setback on the statewide bill, the passage of a transgender non-discrimination measure in Baltimore County increased the state‚Äôs population covered under similar protections to 47 percent.
She noted that Howard County approved a nearly identical bill in December 2011. Baltimore City and Montgomery County approved similar bills several years earlier. According to Beyer, nearly 95 percent of the state‚Äôs transgender people live in those four jurisdictions.
‚ÄúSo in that respect, practically speaking, we‚Äôve done the job,‚ÄĚ she said, in providing legal protection for transgender people in the state.
Political observers sympathetic to the state bill have said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. ‚ÄúMike‚ÄĚ Miller (D-Prince Georges and Calvert Counties) orchestrated its demise in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Some observers say Miller acted because he believed the bill didn‚Äôt have the votes to pass in the full Senate and he didn‚Äôt want the Senate Democratic leadership linked to the bill‚Äôs defeat on the floor. Others, however, say Miller blocked the bill because he personally opposes it. Miller‚Äôs office didn‚Äôt respond to calls for comment.