We at FreeState Justice were excited when the Maryland General Assembly finally passed the Inclusive Schools Act. A first in the nation, this legislation will require anti-discrimination protections for students in both public schools and publically-funded private schools. Maryland declared that taxpayer money does not fund entities perpetuating discrimination, a cornerstone of the federal Equality Act (which has a very uncertain future).
However, within a few weeks, we were demoralized to learn of Carroll County School Board’s decision to ban Pride Flags in public schools. Then an arsonist set fire to a Pride flag and three homes in our historically LGBTQ neighborhood, Charles Village. The fire was a few blocks from the homes of FreeState Justice and Baltimore Safe Haven. The fire hospitalized three individuals. Unironically, the Moms for Liberty responsible for the flag ban are calling for folks to “stoke the fires of Liberty” in our communities.
This rapid escalation of anti-LGBTQ prejudice and violence highlights how quickly the banning of LGBTQ visibility emboldens those who would burn our symbols and our homes. This same week, we have seen political candidates calling for the execution of transgender people & their families and armed white supremacist militia (Proud Boys) storming a public library to terrorize children during a drag queen story hour.
Since 2016, FreeState Justice has provided free legal services to low-income community members under the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). We have directly served over 2,500 low-income LGBTQ Marylanders, and have provided referrals and education to over 50,000 community members. Using our casework and legal expertise, we have provided over 80 pieces of public testimony to the Maryland General Assembly, and have pushed for dozens of new laws to protect our communities. But it has not been enough to defend and protect all of us.
This is a wake-up call, an action alert, an SOS. The Moms for Liberty infiltrated the Carroll County School Board to pass this flag ban, in a county that just years prior was passing their own LGBTQ protections and celebrations of Pride Month. Moms for Liberty currently has nine chapters in Maryland: Frederick County, Caroll County, Harford County, Talbot County, Anne Arundal County, Kent County, with a single directive: “to stoke the fires of Liberty” in our communities by policing school board meetings, securing positions of power, and eliminating the presence of LGBTQ kids and families. The Alliance Defending Freedom is highly active in the state, running video spots spreading lies about our existence and our rights.
We need to organize, resource, and fight. There are a number of ways you can support low-income LGBTQ+ Marylanders:
As a 501c3 nonprofit, your donations are critical to sustaining our work. Please consider a monthly recurring donation today for as little as $5 a month, or join our Leadership Circle. Employers and companies can also sponsor our work–contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above all else, we need to take care of and support each other. As recession and housing crises loom, remember those that will be most impacted. We will need to sustain and resource our community to survive the days ahead.
Jeremy LaMaster (he/they)
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