Creating Change 2012 wraps in the Charm City! See you next year in Atlanta!

On the final day of the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley expressed his hopes that Maryland will soon become the seventh state with marriage equality, he just recently introduced the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012. The governor also talked about his support for efforts to secure gender identity nondiscrimination protections in the state.

He received numerous rounds of applause during his remarks to activists from around the nation who have been meeting this week in Baltimore to strategize and mobilize in this critical election year. He told the crowd:

“We have just begun our 2012 legislative session, and if there is a common thread running through the issues that we are addressing, it is the thread of human dignity — the dignity of every individual and every family in our state. The dignity which says that discrimination based on gender identity is wrong — and that passing a law to protect transgender Marylanders from employment, credit and housing discrimination is the right thing to do. The dignity of a free and diverse people who at the end of the day, all want the same thing for their children: to live in a loving and caring and stable home that is protected equally under the law.”

O’Malley then talked about the effort to secure marriage equality in Maryland. He mentioned the broad coalition working on the issue, including faith, labor, family and civil rights groups. He said:

“Other states have found a way to protect religious liberty, religious freedom and to protect rights equally, and it is time for Maryland to do the same – and that’s why this week we proposed a civil marriage law in the General Assembly of Maryland and we seek to get it done this year. Our bill balances equal protection of individual rights with the important protection of religious liberty and religious freedom. Maryland was the seventh state admitted to the union. We believe with your help and a lot of hard work, we will be the seventh state to pass a civil marriage equality law.”

You can read the full text of O’Malley’s remarks here.

The Task Force’s 2012 Leather Leadership Award was presented to Viola Johnson, who has been an activist, educator, writer, motivational speaker and author in and for the leather community for nearly four decades. Viola thanked Creating Change participants for “understanding that yours is the next generation of voices that will not be silenced.”

Viola Johnson receives the Leather Leadership Award.

The Corporate Leadership Award was presented to Showtime by Task Force Director of Institutional Gifts David Alexander to honor the company’s historic support for the LGBT community from the airing of the film As Is in 1986, one of the first films ever to address the AIDS crisis, to groundbreaking programs Queer as Folk and The L Word, to direct philanthropic support for many years to the Task Force and other LGBT organizations. The network shared a video montage, and George Debolt accepted the award on behalf of the network.

George Debolt accepts the Corporate Leadership Award for Showtime.

Task Force Deputy Executive Director of External Relations Russell Roybal presented Ernesto Dominguez with the Paul A. Anderson Youth Leadership Award for his activism in Portland, Ore., with CHATpdx and with Advocates for Youth. He spoke passionately about the trials of being out both as a gay man and undocumented. “LGBT rights are immigrant rights, and immigrant rights are LGBT rights,” he said.

Task Force Deputy Executive Director of External Relations Russell Roybal presents Ernesto Dominguez with the Youth Leadership Award.

Wilson Cruz, known for his role as Rickie in My So-Called Life and Angel in Rent performed ‘”Love, Child” to close out the conference.

Wilson Cruz performs 'Love, Child.'

In addition to the closing plenary, early in the morning, pro-LGBT faith people convened one last time for Engaging the Spirit, an interfaith gathering to close Practice Spirit, Do Justice. It included rituals, readings and music from diverse spiritual traditions to symbolize the coming together of these particular faiths and as a call to continue to do justice.

Practice Spirit, Do Justice is an important component of the Creating Change convening. This gathering brought together faith leaders and laypeople from numerous denominations and spiritual practices. They strategized on how to bring more faith allies into the LGBT movement and how best to counter religious-based bigotry. The workshops touched upon a diverse array of issues from how to make the religious case for LGBT equality to discussing the process of coming out as an LGBT minister. As part of Practice Spirit, Do Justice, a selection of stoles from the Shower of Stoles Project is put on display. The project is an extraordinary collection of more than 1,000 liturgical stoles and other sacred items representing the lives of LGBT people of faith.

The Shower of Stoles on display at Creating Change.

Thanks to & from the staff of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for another successful Creating Change! We can’t wait to see you in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 23-27, 2013, for our 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change!

The staff of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.