Maryland activists set sights on marriage in 2010
As same-sex couples continue to tie the knot in New Hampshire, marriage is among the issues that will dominate Equality Maryland’s 2010 legislative agenda.
Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, said the enactment of anti-discrimination protections around gender identity and marriage are her organization’s top priorities this year. The organization scored a victory late last month after the Motor Vehicle Administration announced it would not implement a new policy that would have made it more difficult for Maryland drivers to update the gender marker on their licenses. Meneses-Sheets said she feels the current policy is a balance between the interests of the state and the needs of transgender drivers, and that changing the policy would potentially cause embarrassment and harassment for trans Marylanders.
"This recent accomplishment not only benefited transgender individuals, but also provided opportunities to enhance our relationships with high level staff in the administration," she said. "Our goal is to halt the implementation of the policy change in order to provide time to not only review current statutes, but also to engage the community in discussions around possible changes."
Equality Maryland is currently working alongside local legal scholars to submit supporting information to Attorney General Doug Gansler to push for the ability to honor out of state same-sex marriage licenses. The decision will determine the legal possibility of building on the precedent to honor licenses from other states or countries. Meneses-Sheets, who legally married her partner in Vermont last year, said she believes marriage for same-sex couples in Maryland is only a matter of time.
"Now that LGBT couples can obtain a marriage license by simply traveling to [Washington D.C.], Maryland must move forward in recognizing out of state marriages," she said. "The decision is pending, but the initial analysis by many prominent legal experts suggests that we are in a strong position as a state to provide legal recognition of out of state licenses."
One of Equality Maryland’s more pressing priorities is its annual Lobby Day in Annapolis on Feb. 8. Participants will have an opportunity to directly speak with their legislators and attend other events. District of Columbia Councilmember David Catania, Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality and Diego Sanchez, a senior adviser to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank [D-Mass.] are scheduled to speak.
"We must continue to push the President, Congress, and our lawmakers here at home to do the right thing," Meneses-Sheets added. "We have to realize that we are fighting for civil rights. That has never been easy, but it is certainly worth it."