Charlie ain’t got nothin’ on ‘Equality’ Maryland.
FAQ – Censorship, HB 235 and the EQMD Facebook page
The bottom line is that this is an organizational page that is designed to reach out to our supporters and advance Equality Maryland’s mission. Many individuals have their own personal pages where they may say whatever they want, but Equality Maryland’s page is a reflection of our priorities and our ongoing work. While we absolutely welcome constructive criticism and dialogue, Equality Maryland will not allow spamming, harassment or comments that defame our allies, community partners, volunteers, or staff.
I have seen a lot of questions, comments and criticism about the anti-discrimination bill – HB 235. What is the background on this?
As many of you may already know, Equality Maryland is currently working with local advocates and partner organizations to advance House Bill 235. This bill would provide protections on the basis of gender identity in the areas of jobs, housing and credit. Sadly the bill does not include public accommodations, but we have made a very public and genuine commitment to continuing to work on not only the incredibly critical protections offered by public accommodations. This bill is only a first step, but we and many other activists feel that it is an important first step. We are excited about the opportunity to finally advance transgender protections in the statewide political arena. This will provide much needed protections and make a strong statement by including gender identity in the category of “protected classes”.
What is going on with blocking or deleting comments about HB 235?
During the course of this work some members of the community have disagreed on the strategy, but we have and continue to be open to dialogue. We have been holding weekly, in person meetings with members of the LGBT community, with a majority of folks present in the room comprising the T. These meetings were started as an opportunity to answer questions about the current bill and the strategy behind this effort, but have continued over the past weeks and will continue throughout the entire 2011 legislative session. These meetings have helped to open up conversation for the long term planning of both a legislative and public education agenda to ensure that Equality Maryland will meet the needs of the transgender community.
A number of folks in their disagreement with the bill have begun spamming the page. Posting an article or a comment is dialogue. If people disagree with something and make a comment we encourage it to be constructive and to continue to elevate the conversation and dialogue. Posting the same comment 5, 10 or more times on a daily basis is and will continue to be considered by the Equality Maryland team as spamming. And repeatedly attacking those who may in fact agree with our strategy is not helpful or appropriate.
Unfortunately during this time, some people who disagree with the strategy of this bill have also chosen harassment rather than constructive dialogue. A small number of transgender advocates – mostly from outside of Maryland – who do not agree with the current political strategy have engaged in cyber, email and phone based harassment of Equality Maryland staff and volunteers. Some of the folks in question have made or colluded with actual physical threats towards members of the EQMD staff. Some of the people also waged a phone based harassment campaign towards the sponsor of HB 235 that became so threatening and frightening that she ended up having to involve the police.
It is fine to criticize or to disagree with an organization and its staff. That is part of our movement and the work we do on the ground everyday. An open constructive dialogue helps to push us to do and be better and to ensure that different viewpoints are taken into consideration, but Equality Maryland will not tolerate threats of violence or intimidation towards our staff, legislative allies, and volunteers. It is for this reason that some people have been denied ongoing access to our social media pages and that staff have been instructed to monitor and track their communication with these individuals. We will also continue to monitor our Facebook page.
What about the claims of censoring comments on the marriage bill or the recommit vote?
Immediately after the vote several supporters posted harsh and unfair criticisms of legislators who have worked very hard in the marriage battle. Many of these legislators are on Facebook and will continue to work with us – unless we destroy these relationships – so these comments were deleted.
There has been a lot of talk about “who is to blame”. Many people have pointed fingers at churches and in particular African-American churches. There were a number of comments that took this particular line of thinking too far and verged on or seemed racist. Equality Maryland is an organization that works for social justice and will not accept or allow racist comments on our social networks. These types of comments will continue to be deleted.
So who gets to determine what ‘unfair’ criticism is?
So who gets to determine what “genuine commitment” is?
So who was it who actually got to determine that a first (half-)step was acceptable for trans Marylanders?
So how many people out there have actually seen evidence that ‘Equality’ Maryland’s Facebook page was spammed? So how many people out there have actually seen evidence that ‘Equality’ Maryland’s Facebook page was subject to the same comment – not comments from different people expressing the same legitimate sentiment – 5, 10 or more times? So what is the actual evidence that any among ‘Equality’ Maryland’s actual critics “have made or colluded with actual physical threats towards members of the EQMD staff”? So if ‘Equality’ Maryland thinks that “post[ing] harsh and unfair criticisms of legislators who have worked very hard in the marriage battle” is bad, what exactly is its position specifically on all of the comments against Sam Arora?
Maybe I was a bit understated in comparing ‘Equality’ Maryland to Charlie Sheen. Perhaps Nick Gorton had better aim:
Wow. EQMD really are pulling a Sarah Palin on fb.