Today the Boy Scouts of America will be voting on a proposal to overturn the decades old policy that homosexuality goes against the core values of the BSA. As an Eagle Scout, I was never taught this as a value. We were taught to live our lives by the Scout Oath and Law. However, I was taught that living by Scout Oath and Law requires that we value the inherent worth and dignity of all those we meet and that our duty is to uphold “the rights of others” (Eagle Scout Charge). Many people have come up with their own interpretations of these promises, but what is written in my Boy Scout Handbook has not changed.
As Scouts, we attend interfaith services on Scouting weekends, camp with fellow Scouts, cheerfully serve our communities, and learn from the mentorship of strong adult volunteers. Sexual orientation does not affect any of Scouting’s activities. When we donned that uniform, we were equal, in the eyes of Man and God. We were simply Scouts. Our diversity as people unified us and enabled us to overcome any obstacles and challenges that we faced.
Kids that have gone through Scouting come out as participating citizens and civic leaders. The morals instilled in us compel us to speak out for what is just and to stand up for people when they are mistreated. We have been given some of the most amazing opportunities for personal, emotional and spiritual growth and development that any child could have.
Denying these chances to anyone is wrong. Telling a child that they are not worthy of these opportunities is wrong. Telling a child that their parents are not worthy is wrong. The BSA is still an incredible organization, but discrimination is tainting the BSA in the eyes of young American families and potential new Scouts, as well as those of us with Scouting’s highest honor.
Excluding any group of boys from Scouting not only deprives them of the Scouting’s benefits, but it also diminishes the experience of all scouts. Exclusion has no place in the oldest, largest and most effective youth development organization in our nation's history. Exclusion runs counter to those principles we as Scouts pledge. Scouting should be a home to every young man willing to serve his community, obey the Scout Law and who has the courage to stand up us a leader. Leadership requires bravery, which is one of the principles of the Scout Law. I trust that the leadership of the BSA can find the bravery to lead by choosing the inherent worth and dignity of every boy over a policy that goes against the very foundation of Scouting’s legacy.
Taking a step toward ending discrimination will not bring about the end of the BSA as some have suggested. In our collective history, the end of discriminatory practices has always had critics who suggested that ending the bigotry would bring about an end to our social mores. But history shows us consistently the reverse is always true. Embracing love and respect over hatred and exclusion always leads to a stronger society.
The BSA's own internal survey found that ending the ban on gay youth "would be consistent with the religious beliefs of the BSA's major chartered organizations." Not only is the BSA America's youth organization for leadership and character development, it is also one of the greatest interfaith organizations for America's youth. Even those that choose to label the BSA as a "Christian organization" are throwing away a major point of the last tenet of the Scout Law. For a Scout to be reverent he must respect the beliefs of others; this goes beyond respecting only that which he finds agreeable. Furthermore, with the majority of Americans and most Christian Americans supporting marriage equality, it is unfair to label Christianity or any religion as an excuse to continue discrimination in the BSA. As Christians, we are called “to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Love is not possible with hatred in our hearts and in our organizations.
The Boy Scouts certainly made me who I am today. Every boy should have the same opportunity. As Scouting’s Founder Baden-Powell said: “There is no teaching to compare with example.” I pray the BSA set the proper example with their vote.
Mark A. Yost, Jr., Esq.
Board Member, Equality Maryland
With same-sex marriage now available, state to end benefits for domestic partners: State says change is needed to avoid lawsuits
By Michael Dresser and Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun
May 3, 2013
The O'Malley administration has notified state employees in same-sex relationships that they won't be able to include domestic partners in their health insurance anymore.
If they want coverage, they'll have to get married.
The policy change is the result of the new Maryland law allowing same-sex marriage, which took effect Jan. 1. The thinking is that offering health coverage to an unmarried same-sex partner doesn't make sense anymore, officials said, particularly since an unmarried heterosexual partner doesn't have the same right.
But the move by the administration — which introduced domestic partner benefits in 2009 and championed marriage equality last year — has drawn polite dissent from some of the administration's staunchest allies.
"It's really not the most equitable thing to be doing right now," said Carrie Evans, executive director of the gay and lesbian rights group Equality Maryland.
Read the rest of the story here.
County executive launches investigation: 'We don't know what the facts are yet'
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura A. Neuman has launched an investigation into allegations that county Police Chief Larry Tolliver used homophobic slurs and retaliated against officers whose testimony led to her predecessor's criminal conviction for misconduct.
County Councilman Jamie Benoit called for the investigation in a letter to Neuman in which he recounted allegations from officers that Tolliver moved the detectives to less desirable positions and used the anti-gay term "fag."
Tolliver denied any wrongdoing. He told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that the personnel changes were not demotions, but part of a broader effort to fix the department after more than two years of turmoil stemming from former County Executive John R. Leopold's misuse of his police security detail.
Benoit, the most vocal council critic of Leopold, wrote to Neuman that Tolliver was "exacting a bizarre and unreasoned form of retribution against the very officers that led to the removal of the most corrupt elected official in our county's history."
"No one should stand for this type of behavior," he added. "In this case, no elected official should stand by idly and watch yet another police chief wrack the department with more ethical misconduct."
The county reviews all personnel complaints as a matter of policy. Neuman, who was appointed county executive by the council in February after Leopold resigned, declined to comment on what she said was a personnel matter. But she added that "there's a zero tolerance policy as far as discrimination."
"We don't know what the facts are yet because it's just too soon," she said.
Tolliver said in an interview that the officers who testified against Leopold were among many who were reassigned after he took over the agency last year.
"It bothers me that they think it's all about them," he said. "I came in to a mess in this department."
Benoit said the allegations about the anti-gay comments came from a personnel complaint, which has not been made public.
Tolliver said he supports "a culture of diversity." Asked about the allegations, he said, he does not recall "everything I've ever said."
"Do I joke around with the officers? Yes," he said.
"I'm not a homophobic," Tolliver added. "I'm not going to question anyone's sexual orientation. It's none of my business, and it's a personal issue."
Benoit wrote in his letter that the author of the personnel complaint alleged that Tolliver "referred to a person as a 'rump ranger'" — which Benoit described as "derogatory slang used to describe a homosexual male."
Benoit wrote that the complaint author also alleged that Tolliver looked at a photo of an officer and remarked, "I didn't know that you were a fag."
Benoit wrote that the complaint was filed Monday by one of the detectives assigned to Leopold's security detail. The officer was among five who testified during Leopold's criminal trial that the two-term county executive had used his taxpayer-funded security detail to perform campaign tasks and to drain his urinary catheter bag.
Leopold, a former state legislator in Maryland and Hawaii, was found guilty in January of two counts of criminal misconduct in office and resigned as county executive.
A representative from the Fraternal Order of Police union confirmed that an officer filed a complaint against Tolliver on Monday but declined to name the officer or discuss the nature of the complaint. Calls to the county's personnel office were not returned.
The five officers who testified in the Leopold trial have been reassigned from the intelligence division that oversaw the county executive's security.
In one case, Benoit wrote, the detective was told his position as lieutenant had been eliminated. A month later someone else was given that same title.
Leopold appointed Tolliver, a retired former state police superintendent, to take over the county Police Department last summer after the retirement of then-Chief James S. Teare under duress.
Detectives on Leopold's security detail told a grand jury last year that they complained about the executive to Teare, but Teare didn't intervene to stop the misconduct.
The Maryland state prosecutor's office investigated, and police unions and then the County Council issued votes of no confidence in Teare. His retirement ended the state probe; he was not charged with any offense.
Carrie Evans, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality Maryland, said the allegations of slurs by Tolliver, if true, are "disappointing."
But she added that the alleged attitudes are "not unexpected" in the law enforcement profession.
"Many remain closeted within the force in fear of having this kind of treatment and not having a fellow officer back you up," Evans said.
She said the allegations are troubling because they concern the chief. If true, she said, they give "implicit permission to anyone in the force to say those things."
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun
This is the first in a series from testimony supporting SB 449 - the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013. Thanks to Ms Byrd for sharing her moving story.
My name is Mattie Jean Byrd,
As parents my late husband and I have tried to provide our children with a decent education as well as love and support. I raised Lauren along with my other five children. Lauren has two sisters and three brothers. Lauren is my youngest. Never in our wildest imagination did my husband and I think we would be parents of a transgender child. In truth, we didn’t know what transgender was. Our prayer was for healthy children, ten toes and fingers. However, I knew there was a possibility that we could have a child with a disability, and I also knew we would love our children no matter what.
I’m a mother of six healthy children, now six responsible productive adults. One of my children happens to be transgender. My Transgender daughter Lauren is a transgender advocate in Maryland. Henceforth, I guess I’m advocate mom of a transgender child. At seventy four, activism is not want I thought I’d be doing at this point in my life, but you never stop being a mother.
So here we are; it is heartbreaking to be a parent of a transgender child, because of discrimination and abuse inflected upon transgender people. It is difficult to see your child struggle through life, because they’re transgendered. Especially, when you know they’ve done nothing to deserve it. My late husband and I raised our children to be decent respectable adults, to love their neighbors, and to help others whenever possible. I know we have seceded in doing so. The proof is evident in the way our children live. I’m proud to say Lauren has dedicated her life to helping others. I am here today to challenge you all to put laws in place that well protect my child as well as others from discrimination and abuse.
No one should be discriminated against because of who they are: African American, gay, lesbian, transgender, religious or not religious. Everyone should be afforded descent housing, education and a good job, regardless of if you're transgender or not. Please protect the rights of all Americans. My transgender child included.
Listen to EQMD Executive Director talk to Delmarva Public Radio about the marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court
Same Sex Marriage front and center in our nations highest court
What is at stake and what does it mean?
|United States Supreme Court
||Source: Washington Post
GNA - As the United States Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of same sex marriage this week, Justices will not only be addressing the largest social issue to come before the Court in 40 years, but they will also be taking a major step in defining their own legacy, as well as that of the Court.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, our nations highest court will hear arguments in two landmark cases; both dealing with same sex marriage. These two cases place the high court in the midst of uncharted waters .
Prior gay-rights disputes tested a Texas criminal law against intimate homosexual relations and a Colorado prohibition on any anti-discrimination policy tied to sexual orientation. Both were struck down by 6-3 votes, in 2003 and 1996, respectively.
Tuesday's issue is whether a state - California - ma
y define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Supporters of California's Proposition 8 have implored the court to consider society's interests in procreation and childrearing by a man and woman. Opponents of the 2008 California ballot measure counter that the loving relationships of all couples deserve equal respect under the law, citing constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Wednesday's issue will focus on whether the federal government is legally permitted, under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), to deny benefits to married same sex couples that are a right of their heterosexual counterparts.
Below are answers to some of the key questions being asked about these two cases before the Court -- which could have material and far reaching implications for hundreds of thousands of gay men and women, same sex families, as well as thousands of individual state laws, and potentially the national political landscape.
Could the Supreme Court legalize same sex marriage in all 50 states?
In the case involving DOMA, the justices also could address the constitutionality of same sex marriage or they could simply find that the federal government should not be in the marriage business at all and instead leave it up to states to regulate.
The court could go many ways in its ruling on the California case. It could maintain the narrow focus that a federal court had in overturning Proposition 8, when it ruled that a fundamental right like marriage can't be granted and then taken away (referencing same sex couples ability to briefly marry in 2008 in California before voters approved Prop. 8, ending the practice).
Alternatively, the high court could say state prohibitions of same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, opening the door for same sex couples to marry in states where it has been banned.
Another possibility is that the justices could simply overturn the lower court's decision and reinstate the ban on same sex marriage.
They could also find that the group bringing the challenge doesn’t have standing.
We are a legally married same sex couple from Maryland, should we be worried?
NO. It's highly unlikely, and would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to make any ruling that negatively affects laws in the nine states and the District of Columbia that allow same sex marriage. There’s mostly upsides for already married couples.
If the court decides DOMA is unconstitutional, married couples would receive all the rights and benefits that have been denied to them under that federal law, such as the right to file joint taxes, the protections of the Family Medical and Leave Act, and the ability of surviving spouses to access veterans’ benefits.
Why has the Supreme Court decided to hear these cases now?
The Time is Now:
Several challenges to DOMA and the California Proposition 8 case have slowly wound their way through lower courts over the years. Many observers and constitutional scholars have predicted justices would take one of the DOMA challenges, but few expected them to take the Prop. 8 case, as well. The thinking is that the justices feel it’s time to address the question of same-sex marriage, so they now have a state as well as a federal challenge (interestingly, the DOMA case they selected, United States v. Windsor, was the most recent of the cases).
Why are they being heard on consecutive days?
One answer is court discretion. In reality, the cases are related, as they involve the rights of same sex couples to marry.
The federal case which challenges DOMA focuses primarily on the benefits that same sex couples are denied due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, while the California Prop. 8 focuses on the right to marry, and whether same sex couples have that right.
Ultimately, though, both cases come down to whether gay and lesbian Americans are treated constitutionally different because of their sexual orientation. This is the common thread in both cases.
What about civil unions? Could states not legalize these instead of Marriage?
Currently six states do allow Civil Unions, and California allows Domestic Partnerships, however, marriage by any other name is constitutionally not the same.
The Obama administration, in its amicus brief submitted to the Court, called for the end of Prop. 8, saying, creating a parallel system was only meant to deny the “marriage” label and was therefore discriminatory against same sex couples.
Opponents to same sex marriage contend that civil unions and California's domestic partnership law guarantee the same rights and responsibilities as marriage to same sex couples while preserving the preserving the sanctity of traditional marriage.
Marriage advocates argue that civil unions create another separate and unequal class of Americans.
What is the opposition argument against same sex marriage?
In the most simplistic of terms, they contend the tradition of marriage is thousands of years old and defines a man and woman's union. They also contend that the state has an inherent interest in promoting traditional families, and that procreation can only happen between a man and a woman.
Finally, they contend that decisions about marriage should be left up to the voters, not judges or lawmakers.
Unfortunately for that argument, the United States Constitution does not subject the Supreme Court to the will of the voters, and their decisions are virtually unchallengeable.
Is paralelling same sex marriage to Roe v. Wade reasonable?
Those opposing same-sex marriage have invoked the aftermath of Roe as they warn the justices against going too far too fast. They say that if the court forces all 50 states to accept same sex marriage, the same as for abortion rights four decades ago, it will only prolong the gay-rights conflict.
Supporters of same sex marriage declare the comparison to Roe inapt and highlight the court's historic role of protecting minorities against bias. They believe it would be wrong to wait to declare a constitutional right until more states, beyond the current nine and the District of Columbia, legalize same sex marriage.
With such cultural and judicial crosscurrents, the controversy naturally draws a comparison to one of the court's most defining cases in the past 40 years. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal nationwide just as states were weighing related legislation. The ruling generated a social and political backlash that endures today.
When the court declared a fundamental right to abortion, it preempted more permissive abortion laws that were emerging in some states. The ruling also fortified political conservatism and the religiously based "right to life" movement.
The final say...
Carrie Evans, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, one of the country's most successful civil rights organizations for LGBT issues is ready for the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA. "Now that we have marriage equality in Maryland, the continuing presence of the federal so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" is even more striking. We have same-sex couples in Maryland enjoying the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage but remain legal strangers under federal law. The time has come for this federal law to become a vestige of U.S. history."
The Obama administration is hoping the court will agree with him and their ruling will provide a level of constitutional protection for gay men and woman that will likely lead to same-sex marriage nationwide.
Whether the court is ready to take that leap is uncertain. As a group, these nine justices are more conservative than the court of the 1970s and more concerned about judges encroaching on the realm of legislators.
Despite our say, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court have the final word, and we will know what they say in June.
Sen. James Brochin casts fatal vote
Author: M SCOTT BOWLING | ANNAPOLIS, MD, 19.03.2013, 11:53 Time 40x read
GNA - The Fairness for All Maryland's Act of 2013 (Senate Bill 449), was introduced by state Senator Richard Madaleno in early February with twenty-two co-sponsors. The Montgomery County Democrat called the bill the last big victory needed for LGBT rights in Maryland.
At a rally of over 150 civil rights activists in mid-February, Sen. Madaleno told supporters that "The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013" would place Maryland at the top of a handful of states (VT, CT, and WA) that have the full panoply of protections for every part of the LGBT Community.
Supporters of the bill testified for almost three hours before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last month. The stories of discrimination recounted by victims, parents, friends, and community leaders were heart breaking, unfortunately they were not compelling enough for the senate committee to give SB 449 a favorable report, allowing it to proceed to the full Senate for a vote.
While Senators Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), the lead sponsors of the bill, worked tirelessly to ensure that any and all concerns were addressed, and the votes needed to pass the critical legislation were in place, there was one unforeseen and insurmountable hurdle they simply couldn't overcome; Sen. James Brochin.
The Baltimore County Democrat cast the bills fatal sixth vote in committee on Thursday, making it's committee status "unfavorable."
Despite strong support in both the Senate and the House of Delegates, and a commitment from Governor Martin O'Malley to sign the bill into law, without a favorable vote from committee the bill will not proceed to the full chambers for a vote, thus not becoming law.
The purpose of SB 449, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 was to prohibit descrimination based on gender identity with regard to public accomodations, housing, and employment.
It defined "Gender Identity" in the law as "A Gender-Related Identity, Appearance, Expression, or Behavior of an individual regardless of the individuals assigned sex at birth."
It prohibited anyone licensed or regulated by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation in Section 2-108 of the Business Regulation Article from discriminating against a person or persons due to their "Gender Identity". This is the same law that currently prohibits discrimination base on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, and sexual orientation.
Carrie Evans, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, the states largest civil rights organization on LGBT issues said in a message to supporters late Thursday evening "It is terribly disappointing that this committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders. In the past month more than 300 people visited their legislators in support of this bill. Additionally, more than 400 constituents called their senators on this committee and almost 2,000 constituent letters, petitions and postcards in support of SB 449 were given to the 11 members of the committee."
"We are particularly incensed with Senator Jim Brochin’s vote. He had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill. 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’t cast a vote to extend these protections to individuals in the 20 counties that aren’t so fortunate," Evans said.
Senator Brochin did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.
March 14, 2013
In a 5-6 vote this afternoon, the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee failed to pass SB 449,The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013. Voting infavor of the bill were, Senators Raskin, Forehand, Frosh, Gladden and Zirkin. Voting against the bill were Senators Stone, Muse, Jacobs, Brochin, Shank and Getty.
Equality Maryland’s Executive Director commented on this vote, “It is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders.We are particularly incensed with Senator Jim Brochin’s vote. He had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill. 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’t cast a vote to extend these protections to transgender individuals in the 20 counties that aren’t so fortunate.”
Evans goes on, “This is not over. 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. “
The time is now and we need your help. Stand for all Marylanders by attending a canvas or a phone bank.
It's now or never! The session is winding down and we're making a final push this week to firm up legislator support for SB 449.
Trans folks can't afford to wait any longer for this bill. Will you come? Email Alex@equalitymaryland.org for more information.
Whose time? OUR TIME!
Every Wednesday in Montgomery County:
Our Time Phone Bank!
Where: 8720 Georgia Ave. Suite 303
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Every Thursday in Baltimore:
Our Time Phone Bank!
Where: Equality Maryland Office
1201 S. Sharp Street, Suite 109
Baltimore, MD 21230
In 2006 EQMD published a report on the 400+ state-level rights and responsibilities of spouses in Maryland. /uploads/5019/original/marriage_inequality_in_maryland_copy.pdf