A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge issued Teonna Monae Brown a sentence of 10 years in prison with five years suspended for the brutal beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, a 22-year old transgender woman.
The assault took place earlier this year at a Baltimore McDonald's in view of patrons and employees, many of whom encouraged the attacker. One employee captured the event on video, later posting it online where it gained international exposure.
Despite the victim's written plea to Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull that she continues to suffer physical and emotional anguish from the attack, the judge called the prosecutor's recommendation of a five year sentence, "more than reasonable." Ms. Brown was charged with a hate crime and pleaded guilty.
"This horrible crime shows that there is still much work to be done to protect the rights of transgender citizens in Maryland," said Equality Maryland Foundation Board President Patrick Wojahn. "While it's clear that an attack like this is a violation of the law, it is the extreme end of a spectrum that begins with the discrimination that transgender people experience when trying to obtain housing or a job, or to simply be present in public spaces. In order for attitudes to change, the law in Maryland needs to changed - anti-discrimination laws must be amended to protect gender identity and gender expression."
This post comes from one of our staffers, Linsey, who spent her week at Netroots Nation - a progressive conference for social media gurus and activists. While attending the LGBT caucus strategy session, she couldn't help but realize what our movement struggles in advocating because we lack true education for ourselves and our allies. Read her post below.
All of us in the LGBT movement often forget that we're all on one team. As someone who's worked in the movement for a while, I feel as though it's gays vs. lesbians vs. bisexuals vs. transgender vs. gender queers, vs. the world.
This post was originally written for the Gazette by Sarah Breitenbach.
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Despite recent legislative defeats, a turnover in leadership, the loss of grant money and a funding hole thousands of dollars deep, Equality Maryland is continuing its efforts, officials with the gay rights organization said.
Since it lost battles in the past General Assembly session to legalize same-sex marriage and prevent certain types of discrimination against transgendered people, the state's largest group advocating for same-sex marriage has fired its executive director, seen its board chairman resign and is looking to plug a $20,000 gap by the end of the month.
"Certainly these events are a setback," Patrick Wojahn, chairman of Equality Maryland's Foundation board of directors, said Wednesday. "That said, we're going to be meeting this upcoming weekend to develop a plan to move forward. We understand that we have a lot of work before us, that we have a lot of fundraising (to do)."
The $20,000 needed by the end of June includes monthly operating costs and outstanding debts, including a $10,000 bill for a poll commissioned by former Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Wojahn said.
Equality Maryland's board of directors members did not know about the polling costs until interim director Lynne Bowman began reviewing the group's finances.
Grants the group was using to pay the salaries of a handful of staff during the legislative session also have run out, Wojahn said, forcing Equality Maryland to look toward donations to keep running. According to one board member, the group has thousands of members who pay a minimum of $35 in annual dues.
The loss of the same-sex marriage bill in the House of Delegates signals an uphill fight during the 2012 legislative session, and Wojahn said he doesn't expect to receive more grant money from national gay rights organizations this year.
"Part of that is there are other fights going on around the country right now, and if we win in the state legislature, we're still going to have to face a referendum on the ballot. That requires a lot of support," he said. "I think a number of the funders are looking to fight battles that they see as more achievable."
In March, when it looked as though the bill might clear both chambers, opponents who appeared to be backed by national groups opposing same-sex marriage vowed to petition the measure to referendum.
Shortly following the legislative session in April, Meneses-Sheets' contract ended, although Wojahn would not comment on the reason for her departure. Meneses-Sheets could not be reached for comment.
In May, Charles Butler, chairman of the group's board of directors, stepped down for personal reasons, Wojahn said.
Equality Maryland's lobbying efforts were a large part of the success of the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate and in the House Judiciary Committee before it fell a few votes short in the full House, said Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist.14) of Burtonsville.
"They were clearly important during everything that happened during the session," she said. "They were obviously the reason that we got as close as we did."
In past years, versions of the legislation failed to make it to the floor of either chamber.
Kaiser said she cannot imagine Equality Maryland folding and not being a part of the same-sex marriage debate next session.
"Elections have consequences and we as Democrats lost six seats, five of which were (marriage equality) supporters," Kaiser said. "That sometimes gets lost in the whole discussion of Equality Maryland (when placing blame)."
Even so, in order to pass same-sex marriage laws, advocates needs a robust political organization, said Sue Hyde, chairwoman for the MassEquality Education Fund board of directors.
The key to getting Massachusetts lawmakers to vote down a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in 2007 was letting legislators know her group would protect them politically, Hyde said.
After the Maryland bill was sent back to committee in the House, legislative leaders speculated that some freshmen delegates failed to vote in favor of it for fear of constituent fallout.
"The legislators have to be confident that we will stand with them and if they're not confident of that, then there are some (legislators) that (think) ‘I can't take this vote,' ‘I can't risk my elected position,'" Hyde said.
In partnership with Hollaback Baltimore, the Transgender Response Team (TRT) will be creating a public service announcement (PSA) to promote positive visibility of transgender and gender nonconforming Marylanders. Our message is one of unity among our diverse communities, and of nonviolence and equality for all.
We are looking for transgender and gender nonconforming spokesmodels representing our diversity (age, race, gender, passing/not passing,
etc.) to participate in the video shoot. We already have four people signed up from the TRT to participate. We currently have 4 open slots available (maybe more, we'll see how things sort out). Previous modeling/acting experience not at all necessary, but patience and a sense of humor are a big plus!
This post was written by Owen Smith, Equality Maryland's Gender Equality Organizer. This past Monday, Owen spent the day briefing members of congress on the need for gender identity protections - on a national level. Every week, Owen will be sharing his experiences on Trans Parency, his blog. To contact Owen, click here.
On Monday, May 16th, I was asked by our national partners, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), to travel to our nation's Capital to help brief Congress and Congressional staffers about the importance of providing legislative protections for transgender people. We were reporting on the findings from the recent study done by NGLTF and NCTE's Injustice at Every Turn.