The statewide LGBT advocacy group in Maryland announced the selection of longtime advocate Carrie Evans to lead the organization in advance of an anticipated push for marriage equality and transgender rights legislation in 2012.
Equality Maryland selected Evans after a national search. She previously worked for the organization as director of policy and planning from 2007 to 2009. Currently, she serves as a policy analyst for the Baltimore City Housing Department and as an adjunct faculty member for the Gender and Women's Studies department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her other experience includes roles as state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
"I am honored to return to Equality Maryland -- an organization that is critically needed to ensure LGBT Marylanders and our families are treated fairly," said Evans in a statement released by the group. "There is much to be done. I look forward to working with our partners in the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition and in the transgender community, as well as every individual in our state who supports Equality Maryland and our mission."
Earlier this year a marriage equality bill passed the state Senate for the first time, but it failed to receive a vote in the House of Delegates. Advocates are focused on securing the support they need from lawmakers in that chamber. Recent efforts, such as videos from Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique and NAACP chairman emeritus Julian Bond, have placed special emphasis on raising awareness among African-Americans, who make up about 30% of the state's population.
Gov. Martin O'Malley said he would prioritize the marriage equality legislation during the 2012 session, and advocates have formed a coalition, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which includes Equality Maryland, HRC, the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, and many others. Should the bill pass the legislature, opponents are expected to gather signatures in an effort to place the issue on the ballot for a public referendum later next year.
"I look forward to working with Carrie, Equality Maryland, and the broad coalition of committed groups and individuals as we work to pass marriage equality in the upcoming legislative session," said O'Malley.
Also pending on the agenda is Maryland is a bill to protect against discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Such a measure passed the House of Delegates earlier this year, but in a controversial move, it lacked protections regarding public accommodations. The bill did not receive a vote in the Senate despite anticipated support, and in the meantime, a new group, Gender Rights Maryland, has been created to advocate for a comprehensive antidiscrimination bill.
Following the setbacks in the legislature, Equality Maryland's former executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, stepped down. She and the former board president, Charles Butler, engaged in a bitter public dispute about financial challenges amid reports of staff layoffs. Sixteen new board members have since appointed for Equality Maryland and Equality Maryland Foundation as the organization emerges from a period of tumult.
"We are tremendously excited about Carrie's hiring," said Lisa Polyak, acting chair of Equality Maryland. "Given her political acumen and history of work in Maryland, we are confident that Carrie's leadership will place us in the strongest possible position to pass marriage equality and transgender antidiscrimination bills and defend them in a referendum."