Equality Maryland Executive Director Leaving, Says “Not My Choice to Leave”

2011-04-07_feature_story_6135_6119.jpgMorgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, announced today, April 22, that she is it no longer with the organization. Shortly after her announcement, Equality Maryland’s Director of Development Matt Thorn released a statement saying that Meneses-Sheets was fired after a vote by the Equality Maryland board, and that he is leaving the organization in protest.

Meneses-Sheet’s statement comes a few weeks after she told Metro Weekly she has no plans of leaving the organization before marriage legislation and gender identity protections are signed into Maryland law.

When asked by Metro Weekly on April 4, 2011, if she would be present for the 2012 legislative session, Meneses-Sheets said:

“Yes, I will definitely be here. When I started this – knowing how close we were to these two equally important pieces of legislation – in my mind and in my heart I wasn’t going to leave until we at least saw those two pieces through.

There are many other needs. These are not the silver bullets that solve all problems for LGBT Marylanders by any stretch of the imagination, but they are the next two big pieces that make a critical difference, and so I will see those through.”

Meneses-Sheet’s full statement is below:

It is with a heavy heart that I share that today will be my last day as the Executive Director of Equality Maryland. While it is not my choice to leave, it is my choice to make my voice heard as I exit.

I’ve spent the last eighteen months at the helm of EQMD and this time has held some of the most rewarding moments of my career, but it has also been extremely difficult. In particular the past few months have been tough to bear. Not because of the hard work which I welcome and felt honored to be part of, but because of the forces within the organization and external politics that created additional and unnecessary obstacles to our forward movement and success.

As I move on, I will not focus on the negative or destructive forces that created this untenable situation, instead I will look back at the many proud moments along the way.

During my first months, Equality Maryland lead the successful efforts to protect the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s policy providing transgender Marylanders the opportunity to update their driver’s license to appropriately reflect their gender. This policy undeniably makes a difference in people’s lives. When you go to a grocery store and pay with a check or buy a glass of wine, you are asked for identification, and to have it match how you present yourself to the world protects you against discrimination and violence. I am proud of this success.

I am proud that we have built a strong grassroots network throughout the state. I am proud that we identified new supporters, had more young people involved and created a diverse, thriving volunteer program. I am proud of our efforts during the 2010 elections, in particular our work to protect pro-equality Delegate Kris Valderrama and to oust Senator Alex Mooney who had a 0% voting record on LGBT issues.

I am also extremely proud that together with the staff, our volunteers, our partners and many passionate and dedicated legislative allies that this year we got further than ever before in the goals to amend our state’s anti-discrimination laws to include protections on the basis of gender identity and to enacting full marriage equality. These are what many people call the “civil rights causes of our day” and it has been a privilege to be part of the movement to realize these incredibly important goals.

I know that many in our community, myself included, were disappointed that we did not get to the finish line, but having done this work for many years I know that progress can take time. We created a strong foundation for future efforts. I look forward to celebrating continued success in Maryland’s fight for equality.

Looking back, there are things that I could do differently, but lessons I learned I will always have with me. Know that I worked hard and I did my best with the tremendous staff alongside me. Together, we were able to move the organization further legislatively than ever before.

I am sad that I will not be part of the team advancing critical protections for jobs, housing, credit and public accommodations for transgender Marylanders. I am disappointed that I was not provided the opportunity to continue to build and enhance the efforts to end the exclusion of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples from marriage.

As a Marylander, as a lesbian, as a parent, as someone with many loved ones who are transgender, and as someone who believes in social justice I sincerely hope that Equality Maryland will succeed in their future endeavors to ensure that our state lives up to the promise of equality for all of its citizens. This will require significant changes, but it is possible. I hope that those who worked hard with my team will continue to be part of these endeavors so that we may also see a better future.

I am excited to spend more time with my family as I have given up many precious hours with them to wage this battle. I am also excited for the opportunities that lay ahead for me.

I thank those who stood by my side. I am grateful to have met and worked with so many incredible people, many who I will continue to count as friends as I take the next steps in my journey.

[Photo by Todd Franson]

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