Basic Rights Montgomery forms to fight repeal of nondiscrimination law

April 24, 2008

Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1465
(Cell) 917.704.6358

Task Force Action Fund issues challenge grant to bolster campaign

A group of Montgomery County residents, joined by the advocacy organization Equality Maryland, announced the formation of a campaign to preserve a gender identity nondiscrimination law that was unanimously passed last November by the County Council. Basic Rights Montgomery, chaired by local business leader James R. Walker, Jr., will ensure that voters have the facts about this law.

“Transgender people deserve the right to have a job and a home and provide for themselves and their families, just like everybody else," said Walker, a Chevy Chase resident who sits on the board of Equality Maryland. “We in Montgomery County are proud to live in a diverse community that welcomes all people. Basic Rights Montgomery is confident that with the facts, the fair-minded people of our county will reject attempts to roll back our anti-discrimination laws.”

In March, Walker joined Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams, Progressive Maryland Board Chair Elbridge James, and several other residents in a legal challenge to the validity of the signatures gathered in an attempt to repeal the law. Equality Maryland, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, hired local attorney Jonathon Shurberg to request judicial review of the signatures. With a ruling unlikely before summer, Basic Rights Montgomery has been formed to prepare for the possibility of a November referendum on this basic civil rights law.

“The LGBT community in Maryland and nationally sees this as an important opportunity to inform our neighbors about the unique challenges and the intolerable discrimination faced by people who don't conform to certain societal gender expectations," said Rea Carey, acting executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. “The Task Force is announcing a $20,000 challenge grant so that we can get to work — right now — in putting together the necessary campaign to counter the misinformation being spread by those who would repeal these vital protections."

“As a resident of Montgomery County, it's been painful to see this basic civil rights measure distorted by a smear campaign that distracts from the core issue at hand — discrimination, "said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland. “It's outrageous to put people's basic human rights up for a vote alongside questions about slot machines."

“Basic Rights Montgomery will ensure that our county remains part of the 40 percent of the U.S. population that is covered by laws that protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity," Walker said. “All Montgomery County residents should care about keeping these basic civil rights protections on the books in our community."

Montgomery County joined 13 states and the District of Columbia and more than 100 localities, including the city of Baltimore, in outlawing discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

For information about how to get involved in the campaign, visit Equality Maryland.

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.