Press

Montgomery County transgender nondiscrimination law protected from repeal effort

Date: 
September 09, 2008

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1465
(Cell) 917.704.6358
rsklar@theTaskForce.org

High court agrees opposition did not collect enough valid signatures

“We are thrilled to have our work and the work of our partners in Maryland vindicated. We were honored to help the Montgomery County LGBT community build a strong campaign from the ground up and see that building grassroots political power — and winning — is more than possible. We knew that there were not enough valid signatures collected and we are proud to have stood side by side with Equality Maryland, Basic Rights Montgomery, our legal partners and many volunteers to mount this legal challenge to the repeal effort. Had the measure reached the ballot, we are sure the fair-minded voters of Montgomery County would have rejected it as an attack on fundamental rights. We are excited that LGBT people in Maryland can now focus their efforts on passing a statewide ban on anti-transgender discrimination.”

— Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund is thrilled with today’s win before the highest court in Maryland which decided that an anti-transgender measure must be removed from the ballot in Montgomery County, Md. The court agreed with plaintiffs that the opposition effort did not collect enough valid signatures, reversing a lower court decision. The measure will not move forward as a result of this decision. The Montgomery County Council in Maryland unanimously passed that law last fall, but opponents quickly launched a signature-gathering effort to place a repeal measure on the ballot.

In March, the county Board of Elections certified those petitions, but a group of Montgomery County voters brought a lawsuit against the Board of Elections challenging its conclusion that enough valid signatures had indeed been collected.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, Equality Maryland and dozens of volunteers mounted an extensive review of the signatures collected by proponents of the anti-transgender ballot measure. For more than two months — days, nights and weekends — volunteers converged on Task Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., to pore over the 25,000-plus submitted signatures and find flaws that would possibly invalidate the signatures.

The Task Force Action Fund conducted massive “family and friends” phone banks in both New York and D.C., which helped raise over 20 percent of the start up funds available to the campaign in preparation for the possibility of a ballot measure. The Task Force carried out a volunteer recruitment campaign increasing the capacity for Basic Rights Montgomery to launch a full scale voter identification effort in July. The legal team — local counsel Jonathan Shurberg hired by Equality Maryland, supported by Lambda Legal and Arnold & Porter on a pro bono basis — relied upon Task Force Transgender Civil Rights Project Director Lisa Mottet to supervise the review of faulty signatures. The Task Force Action Fund itself contributed $20,000 to Basic Rights Montgomery, the group set up to fight the measure on the ballot and provided mentorship to Basic Rights Montgomery’s lead organizer, KT Thirion, a former Task Force fellow, as he worked to successfully launch and grow the field.

Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland says: “This win would never have been possible without the support of the Task Force. When Equality Maryland most needed support, the Task Force’s policy and legal staff, as well as interns, helped us organize a massive and overwhelming scrutiny of the signatures that had been gathered in an attempt to repeal the anti-bias law. The end result of the Task Force’s incredible investment and partnership is that we have saved a transgender civil rights law from possible repeal and assured it will be enacted expeditiously to protect Montgomery County residents. We in Maryland thank the leadership of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, as well as Lisa Mottet and Dan Hawes for their blood, sweat and tears, and we share with them this victory.”

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

“We are thrilled to have our work and the work of our partners in Maryland vindicated. We were honored to help the Montgomery County LGBT community build a strong campaign from the ground up and see that building grassroots political power — and winning — is more than possible. We knew that there were not enough valid signatures collected and we are proud to have stood side by side with Equality Maryland, Basic Rights Montgomery, our legal partners and many volunteers to mount this legal challenge to the repeal effort. Had the measure reached the ballot, we are sure the fair-minded voters of Montgomery County would have rejected it as an attack on fundamental rights. We are excited that LGBT people in Maryland can now focus their efforts on passing a statewide ban on anti-transgender discrimination.”

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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, founded in 1974 as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBT community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community. The Task Force Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are not tax deductible.