Candidates View Their Role in the Fight for LGBTQ Rights
In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as
Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, which gives it a decisive conservative
tilt, LGBTQ individuals along with many other minorities see themselves in the
cross-hairs of those who want to roll back hard-fought legally obtained rights.
That includes such landmark decisions as Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. #hocopolitics
The direction of SCOTUS
along with the policies of the Trump administration is of concern to the LGBTQ
community and its allies both nationally and locally.
Even with strong protections in place in Howard County,
there is more work that needs to be done to overcome homophobia and transphobia,
LGBTQ youth homelessness, bullying and violence to name a few. In fact, the Maryland State Police just issued a report that indicated hate crimes increased in Howard County by 35 percent in 2017
over 2016 in which such crimes against gay males ranked third behind racism and anti-Semitism.
As we approach Election Day, I invited candidates for
various local offices and parties to share their experiences involving LGBTQ
rights and what they would do, if elected, to further these rights and solidify
protections in the county.
By not appearing here, it should not be construed that they are silent on LGBTQ issues. It could be that they have not seen the announcement asking for participation. Or it could be that bringing attention to these issues is not politically advantageous. Therefore, please don't draw any conclusions if the candidate is not included. And any Howard County candidate who wishes to participate is welcome to do so at any point.
Each candidate was posed the following questions: 1)
Briefly explain your past experience in promoting LGBTQ rights; 2) What do you
see as the most pressing concern/issue for LGBTQ citizens in the county/state? 3)
If elected, how will you try to advance LGBTQ equality, inclusion, and safety?
These individuals have varying degrees of experience in
LGBTQ matters but all believe in diversity and inclusion and that protecting
and furthering LGBTQ rights is fundamental.
Below are the participating candidates’ responses in their
own words displayed alphabetically by office.
Calvin Ball, Candidate (D) for
Howard County Executive
As a Councilman and advocate, I
have promoted and fought for a more inclusive environment where every single
Howard County resident could feel safe being their best selves. In 2011, I
introduced a bill to the Howard County Council to include gender identity and
expression as classification to protect the LGBTQ+ community from unlawful and
We live in a world where the
government is trying to tell us who to love, where we can use the bathroom, and
otherwise restricting people’s rights to be themselves. We need to allow
everyone the right to live their best lives and be their best selves. As
community members, it is our job to ensure that every citizen, regardless of
race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability feels welcomed
As Howard County Executive, I
will work with the LGBTQ+ community to ensure the inclusion and safety of all
community members. We will work together to build the best Howard County
promoting opportunity for all of us. Diversity and inclusion should not be
tolerated; it should be celebrated. In Howard County, we condemn hate bias
incidents towards any and all community members. I’ve always believed strongly
in nurturing the beautiful diversity of the sexuality and gender identity
spectrum communities, and I'll continue to advocate for their rights as your
next Howard County Executive.
Allan H. Kittleman, Incumbent Candidate
(R) for Howard County Executive
Some of the proudest moments of
my career in public service have been working toward advancing and protecting
the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. As a
State Senator, I supported bills for both marriage equality and transgender
rights. In 2018, though no longer a
Senator, I provided written testimony in support of a state bill to ban
conversion therapy for youth.
When elected County Executive in
2014, I sought to create a more supportive community for LGBTQ+ individuals and
their loved ones in Howard County. I
formed one of the first county-focused LGBTQ+ Community Roundtables, appointed
one of the first government liaisons to the LGBTQ+ community, and assigned
staff to work in the community by assisting with Howard County’s inaugural
Howard County Pride, and the SAGE Table event with HopeWorks.
Finally, I’m proud of Howard County’s recent
designation from the Human Rights Campaign awarding Howard County with the
Municipal Equality Index’s top score.
I recognize a need for better
visibility and acceptance in the workplace, which I plan to promote in my
administration so that Howard County government can lead other employers by
example. I also think we need to create
a more accepting and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ youth, and I look forward
to elevating this issue with our organizations that work with children and
I’m proud to announce that
Howard County is preparing an internal diversity policy, which will address
equality, inclusion, and safety. We will
also continue to support and put resources behind HoCo Pride, and facilitate
meetings between the LGBTQ+ Roundtable and County agencies.
Byron Macfarlane, Incumbent Candidate
(D) for Register of Wills for Howard County.
When I was elected as Register
of Wills in 2010, I became the first LGBTQ elected official in Howard County
history. In this role, I have worked with my counterparts across Maryland to
ensure that LGBTQ Marylanders are treated equally and with dignity and respect.
I was the first and only Register to publish online a guide to the inheritance
tax exemption for domestic partners, which is still available to unmarried
same-sex couples today.
During the debate over marriage
equality in the Maryland General Assembly in 2012, I testified about how the
inability to marry created significant problems for LGBTQ couples when it comes
to end of life issues. I spoke with legislators about the 100 instances the
word “spouse” appears in Maryland probate law, all of which conferred benefits
on married couples that were unavailable to same sex couples. During the
referendum that followed, I co-hosted a fundraiser with Howard County Executive
Ken Ulman to support Question 6, and served as a field coordinator for the
campaign in Howard County.
Over the past decade, I’ve
consistently donated to LGBTQ community organizations and advocacy groups,
including Howard County PFLAG, the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of
Baltimore (GLCCB), Moveable Feast, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign.
After many years of hard work,
it’s a relief to say that our community has most of the legal protections we’ve
always wanted here in Maryland. The work we have to do now is cultural and
institutional. Here in Howard County, I think the most pressing concern is how
our LGBTQ youth are treated in our public school system. I’ve spoken to many
students who feel that their only form of support comes from their sympathetic
peers, rather than administrators or parents. We need a Board of Education and
a superintendent who take this issue seriously and lead the system to being
better educated on how to protect LGBTQ children and advocate for their needs.
We also need to be vigilant in
the face of a dramatic increase in hate crimes in America. Just a few months
ago, Glenelg High School was defaced with anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic
graffiti. Our community needs to be visible and aggressive in condemning these
actions and holding our elected leaders accountable for doing the same.
Here in Howard County and across
our country, we must continue to educate ourselves and open our hearts and
minds to the ever-evolving spectrum of identities that our LGBTQ brothers and
sisters choose in order to live their lives fully and happily. We have a wide
variety of sexual orientations and gender identities and we are all part of the
same community, and we owe it to one another to work at understanding each
As Register of Wills, I’ve
maintained a pro-equality workplace and will continue to do so. I will work in
the term ahead to recruit and support more LGBTQ candidates to run for office
here in Howard County, to ensure our community has a seat at the
decision-making table. I’ll encourage my partners in government to adopt
LGBTQ-inclusive hiring policies, focusing particularly on my courthouse
colleagues here and across Maryland. I’ll also continue to support, financially
and otherwise, pro-equality community and advocacy groups, and contribute to
lobbying efforts with FreeState Justice when I can be helpful.
Rich Gibson, Candidate (D) for
Howard County State’s Attorney
In my capacity as a prosecutor I
have prosecuted cases where the victims were LGBT. It is important to me that every member of
our community is safe from violence and free to be themselves within our
In my personal life I have attended PFLAG
events to show my support for the LGTBQ members of the Howard County
There are many pressing concerns
impacting the LGBTQ community; one that stands out to me is bullying behaviors
and violence against LGBTQ students.
Addressing this issue requires that students, teachers, and school
administration change their attitudes and behaviors related to LGBTQ members of
our community. It would be beneficial to
utilize restorative justice practices in the school setting to encourage
empathy and avoid criminal sanctions that might stigmatize the students and
inhibit their future options.
The State’s Attorney’s mission
is to make sure that our community is safe and that every individual in Howard
County has equal protection and access to justice regardless of their zip code,
socioeconomic status, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender
identity. I will take extremely serious
any cases where members of our community are harmed based upon bigotry and will
ensure the aggressive prosecution of those cases where the evidence supports a
finding that bigotry was a motive for the crimes committed.
Marcus Harris, Candidate (D) for
Howard County Sheriff
I have not had any specific
involvement with LGBTQ issues or concerns. As a parent and coach, I do believe
it is imperative we show all people respect and kindness and have made those
values clear to my children and all the young people with whom I interact.
We need to ensure that members
of this vulnerable community always feel safe. Many states are passing
legislation that limits the rights of our LGBTQ community members, such as some
of the Bathroom Bills passed in North Carolina and other states. These bills paint
the LGBTQ as a threatening population which is definitely untrue and harmful.
As Sheriff, I know that we can
have an impact by increasing community engagement and partnerships. I intend to
build strong partnerships within all members of the community by increasing
community interactions and volunteer opportunities with our youth. If we can
increase engagement and interaction with LGBTQ youth, we can better understand
their concerns and the issues they face in the community. And by being a
welcoming and inclusive institution, we can set an example for the rest of
Bill McMahon, Candidate (R) for
Howard County Sheriff
During my career in the Howard
County Department of Police, including 8 years as the Chief of Police, I worked
closely with many community members and groups, particularly those who were
most vulnerable to crime and feared for their safety. This included our LGBTQ
We provided additional training
to our staff, not just to be compliant with the law, but to provide respectful
and helpful service to everyone. In fact, we had an issue in which one of our
officers did not meet our expectations in a presentation he made. A parent of a
transgender student was rightly outraged by the comments and contacted me. We
were able to work together to develop a training program that all employees
attended. This was a prime example of taking a situation and using it as an
opportunity to improve. I alluded to this example in a recent League of Women
Voters interview. The relevant information begins at about the 2:00
In 2016, I returned to a public
safety leadership role when I was appointed as Sheriff when the prior Sheriff
retired after a Human Rights Commission investigation into his comments and
behavior that were characterized as racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and
otherwise hurtful to any number of minority groups. One of the first community
events I attended was a work group hosted by the County Executive that focused
on how members of the LGBTQ were treated, or feared they would be treated, in
the county. Over the last two years I have been working to improve our policy
and training, including issues specific to this community.
I would also point out that I
have hired and promoted employees who have identified as being LGBTQ.
I think that LGBTQ citizens have
continuing concerns about their safety and being subjected to harassment,
bullying and other unfair treatment. While I think Howard County is generally
more inclusive than many communities, I know that is not true in every incident.
As the Chief of Police, we handled a number of Hate Bias Incidents targeted at
county residents and worked hard to both investigate the crimes and hold people
accountable, as well as to enhance the victims’ (both primary and the
community) feelings of safety.
Specific to my role as the
Sheriff, we are making sure that we have updated policies and training to
appropriately handle issues specific to LGBTQ citizens. This includes ensuring
that we treat people with respect and dignity. We are currently reviewing how
we handle LGBTQ citizens who may be detained or arrested to ensure that that
they are safe and treated appropriately. In our work in domestic violence, we
are aware of some of the additional challenges and fears that LGBTQ citizens
may have in working with law enforcement and work hard to ease any concerns.
As I have
throughout my time leading organizations, I will work to make sure that we are
compliant with current law and best practices in how we do our jobs. We will
continue our community outreach efforts and invite input into the policies that
may uniquely affect our LGBTQ community members. We are also ready to improve
and meet the expectations that our entire community has for us.
Opel Jones, Candidate (D) for Howard County Council, District 2
In the past, currently, and in
perpetuity, I have spoken out against any discrimination against the LGBTQ
community via social media (3.5K friends of FB, 1K IG, 550 Twitter), as a
member of the Human Rights Commission helping out with the LGBTQ Committee, and
attending local LGBTQ events in the community.
I also participated in the LGBTQ Forum for candidates here in Howard
County although my opponent refused to participate.
I believe my transgender
brothers and sisters deal with one of the most pressing issues, specifically
which gender is on their birth certificate. I know in New York they either just
passed, or are in the process of passing legislation to add a third category to
the birth certificate. That kind of creative legislation, working hand in hand
with LGBTQ leaders, and just overall being a thoughtful and nice person, will
help all of us!
This is 2018. If any human being
can’t be treated equally in Howard County or Maryland at large, then there’s a
big problem. I’m going to do my absolute best to make sure we are ALL equal!
If elected, I will continue the
legacy of Calvin Ball specifically in District 2 and county-wide by keeping an
eye on any bills to bring forth amendments that help the LGBTQ Community, as
well as sponsoring any necessary legislation so that my LGBTQ brothers and sisters
are never discriminated against.
Deb Jung, Candidate (D) for Howard County Council, District 4
I was a Commissioner on the
Human Rights Commission of Howard County for five years during the 1990’s. We elected the first openly gay person to
chair the Commission during that time-Jan Nyquist. During my twenties, I worked for the National
Organization for Women, advancing the Equal Rights Amendment throughout the
country, as well as advocating for gay rights (this was before we adopted the
LGBTQ initials as a descriptor). I have
marched in favor of LGBT rights, spoken out in
favor of LGBTQ rights, and have raised my daughter to have respect for
everyone, including those who identify as LGBTQ.
Bullying in the schools,
hate-filled social media posts, groups who are determined to undermine the
rights of the LGBTQ population, such as the Family Research Council, hate
crimes and violence against the LGBTQ population, and efforts to use the
religious freedom argument to undermine LGBTQ equality.
I will continue to support the
LGBTQ community and keep an open door to make sure that everyone feels safe and
included in Howard County and the State of Maryland. I will ensure that County Boards and
Commissions reflect the diversity of the County, including LGBTQ residents, and
I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the County’s antidiscrimination
laws are enforced.
Christiana Rigby, Candidate (D) for Howard County Council, District 3
After graduating from college I worked with the Human Rights
Campaign (HRC) to help expand workplace protections in Florida. Unfortunately,
only 22 states in America protect someone from being fired for being sexual
orientation beyond the limited federal law. I have continued to be a supporter
of LGBTQ rights in our broader community, and have attended PRIDE and PFLAG
events in support.
I'm proud that Howard County receives as 100% score on
our Municipal Equity Index rating from the HRC. However, we must continue to
improve support within our communities. Given that Howard County is aging at
around twice the rate of other counties in Maryland, we should do more to
engage with our 50+ LGBTQ community. Inclusive sexual education for youth,
vigilance regarding hate crimes, and increased mental health support are all
basic, vital aspects of supporting our diverse community.
Vicky Cutroneo, Candidate for Howard County Board of Education
As PTA Council President, I
advocated for LGBTQ student representation on policy committees, most recently
the dress code and sexual discrimination policy review committees. Over the summer I met with PFLAG advocacy
chair to discuss ways we can better support students and grow GSAs at
individual schools and connect to student councils. As a candidate for public office over the
last 2 years, I have remained steadfast and vocal in my support for LGBTQ
rights, especially as it relates to students.
As an aunt of a transgender nephew and friend to many in the LGBTQ
community, I am a proud advocate and vocal supporter.
I believe the most pressing
concern for LGBTQ students is school climate and safety. Students are often faced with hostile
learning environments where bullying and teasing are common which can compound
stress, anxiety, depression and lead to suicide. Every
single day, LGBTQ students enter through the school’s main doors and they don’t
feel safe when they’re there.
· 55.5% of LGBTQ students
feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
30.3% miss at least
one day of school per month because they feel unsafe.
Over a third avoid gender-segregated
spaces in school because they felt unsafe.
68% report avoiding
school functions and extracurricular activities because they felt unsafe.
74% were verbally
harassed, 36% were physically assaulted.
56.7% who were
harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff,
most commonly because they doubted that effective intervention would occur or
it would become worse if reported.
seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual
LGBTQ youth are
almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual
LGBTQ youth who come
from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to have attempted
suicide as LGBTQ youth who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
Schools need to be not only safe,
but also affirming and empowering and I have learned that having what sounds
like great countywide policies mean nothing if they are not ACTIVELY carried
out at the school level or if a hostile/unsupportive school culture
exists. For example, though students may
be allowed to use gender specific bathroom that they identify with, it doesn’t
mean they will. Many will ask to use
staff bathroom because they are afraid.
What are ways that the school
system can become more inclusive? One
way is thru a curriculum that mirrors the real lives of students; however, many
teachers will not enter into the domain of using curriculum that includes LGBTQ
related topics because of perceived or real lack of administration support or
parent push back. As many as 6 million
American children and adults have an LGBTQ parent and most schools have
students who identify as LGBTQ or parents who are gay. The curriculum should at least
acknowledge/reflect real life.
We also need to make bullying
reporting more user friendly; anonymous two way texting has found great success
in a number of other jurisdictions. Students
do not want to fill out a form. More
than that, we need to address root cause, not just treat the symptoms. This
needs to begin in elementary school, with comprehensive and relatable
anti-bullying/sexual harassment programs. It needs to be weaved into the fabric of the
curriculum and the school day. Empathy
and acceptance can’t be taught in a one-hour high school health class. It needs to amped up in middle school, when
bullying escalates and self-esteem plummets. (boy, am I glad my kids are all
done with middle school…)
The GSA is a great way for
students to feel connected and empowered, but it’s success is largely dependent
on administration support and willing sponsor.
For example, are meetings announced on loudspeaker? Moreover, we need to work towards expanding
GSA opportunities at the middle school level.
I have discussed with PFLAG advocacy chair Jumel Howard ways in which
GSAs could become more connected with each other and with student
councils. I believe GSAs should also
engage with each other at the county level, much like student councils; a
monthly meeting with a GSA representative from each school as well as with SMOB/student
I believe specific training/professional
development on how to better support LGBTQ students is needed so that there is
some uniformity between schools. I was
stunned to learn from a teacher that currently there is nothing in place. If we want all of our schools to be LGBTQ
inclusive and supportive then we must move from a passive to active mindset and
provide the appropriate tools and resources to administrators and staff. This is
especially true if a student has a non-supportive family, sometimes it just
takes one teacher to change the trajectory of their lives and improve mental
Policies and codes of conduct
set the foundation for an inclusive and accountable school system and both are
under the purview of the Board of Education.
We need to ensure that policies are carried out at the school level and adequate
resources and training are in place so that it’s more than just lip service.
Something I have worked towards was ensuring adequate LGBTQ representation on
policy review committees. I would love
to see more students serving in this capacity and will work with GSAs towards
this end, as well as engaging with LGBTQ staff to serve on committees.
An inclusive, accepting school
environment is impossible if there has been no training or professional
development, if there has been no dialogue with students. It’s just words put together without
action. Moreover, inclusion, equality
and safety are impossible if students do not feel empowered to speak up and if
they feel there will be no consequences or retaliation. As with policy, student codes of conduct only
work if they are actually adhered to, if there are consequences, if there are
reparations including restorative practices opportunities.
We need to be honest about the
realities that go on within the confines of our school buildings; slicing and
dicing bullying and harassment data to give us the rosiest picture or making it
hard to report bullying is a disservice to our students. As a board member, I
will continue to engage with students and parents directly to get the real
I will not simply sit behind the
dais and depend on the HCPSS interpretation of student reality as my primary
source of information and I will work to ensure that board policies and student
codes of conduct do indeed foster an inclusive and accepting school climate.
Bob Glascock, Candidate for Howard
County Board of Education
During my 38 years as an
educator in the Howard County Public School System and the Maryland State
Department of Education, I tirelessly focused on access, inclusion, and equity
for all children.
As a social studies teacher for
10 years in Glenwood Middle School, I created an environment that promoted an
acceptance of all students and their families and helped students grow and
learn about people from present and past cultures through the world. I created experiences that help students
break down barriers and perceptions from people who were different from them. For
example, I organized and implemented the first school-wide disability Awareness
Day where students interacted and learned about people with disabilities
through presentations and activities such as a wheelchair basketball game.
When I became an administrator
in the central office, I created an initiative that emphasized “All children
should see themselves in the curriculum.”
This leads to a more inclusive curriculum. As Assistant Superintendent, I advocated that
sexual orientation must be included in the school system’s policy on
As a member of the Board of
Education, I will take the lead on developing a policy on equity for students
and staff. A policy on equity is the
cornerstone of building and maintaining a culture of acceptance and
inclusiveness in the Howard County Public School System.
I am a lifelong educator who
embraced diversity, inclusiveness, and equity and will continue my advocacy on
the Board of Education.
Danny Mackey, Candidate for Howard
County Board of Education
I have long been an advocate for
our LGBTQ community. Most recently I have used my position as a candidate for
public office to discuss the need to provide LGBTQ students learning
environments that are supportive, understanding, and safe.
We are lucky to live in an
incredibly diverse county that is so widely accepting of LGBTQ members of our
community. As candidate for Board of Education I tend to think about our LGBTQ
youth and what issues they may face as students in our school system.
young people come to understand their sexuality/gender identity during their
formative adolescent years. For these youth we can do a better job creating
support systems within our community, both inside and outside of HCPSS, to make
coming out a less stressful process and make every student in HCPSS feel as
though they can be themselves when they’re at school.
As a member of the Board of
Education I will engage members of our LGBTQ community to bring their voices to
the table and inform better decision-making at HCPSS to encourage an
environment that is welcoming and supportive of all HCPSS students.
Jen Mallo, Candidate for Howard County Board of Education
As an engaged citizen, I vote
for candidates who support LGBTQ rights, especially the rights to same-sex
marriage, the civil rights not to be discriminated against in housing,
employment, healthcare, education, and more.
As the former Chairperson of the
Community Advisory Council, I supported policies and initiatives that promote
equity, diversity, and inclusion. I was
an outspoken advocate for anti-bullying efforts, laws, and more. I currently sit on the dress code policy
review committee with an eye toward making sure all our students are treated
fairly and equitably.
As a Board of Education
Candidate, I have been outspoken in my ardent support for students who are
Transgender to use the facilities that correspond to their gender identity even
in the face of hostility.
As a proud parent of a member of
the LGBTQ community, I am acutely aware of how my every day actions are an
integral part of promoting LGBTQ rights and acceptance. I have shared our family’s journey with friends
and community members, promoted how normal it is to believe that love is love
regardless of gender, and promoted acceptance of transgender students.
Some of the most pressing
concerns are the high rates of suicide for LGBTQ youth, bullying of LGBTQ
youth, and the growing need for acceptance and inclusion of our youth who are
I commit to examining HCPSS
policies for ways to advance equality, inclusion, and safety. As someone with years of experience in HCPSS
policy review, examination, and revision, I am uniquely qualified to tackle
I commit to meeting with and
listening to members of the LGBTQ community to fully understand where we can
make a difference. The LGBTQ students
know better than anyone else what they are experiencing, and it is important
for me to listen and then act to support them.
I commit to accepting our
students who are LGBTQ as individuals who need to be safe and supported, and to
be educated fairly and wholly.
Robert. W. Miller, Candidate for Howard County Board of Education
To date, I do not feel that I
have done anything very significant in promoting LGBTQ rights. As a teacher,
however, I have tried to be supportive of LGBTQ students, staff, and parents,
and as a candidate for the Board of Education I have tried to be supportive of
LGBTQ concerns. I hope that I will have the opportunity to be supportive of
LGBTQ rights on the Board.
Because I am running for the
Board of Education, I am focusing my comments regarding LGBTQ students. If I
had to pick one concern, I would choose the maintenance of these students’
emotional health. Many LGBTQ students face challenges that are often greater
than straight students, including bullying, suicide, social prejudice and
discrimination, depression, and relationships with family and peers. The
atmosphere and expectations set by the school system could go a long way toward
enabling LGBTQ students to have enjoyable and emotionally healthy years in
If elected I would work with the
other members of our Board of Education to encourage the respect of diversity
and to provide an inclusive environment for LGBTQ students. Not only should
specific needs be met, such as the ability to use the restroom of their choice
like any other student, but LGBTQ students should expect to be respected like
any other student by school staff, and these expectations should be backed up
by policy and deed. Furthermore, they should expect school staff to work toward
bringing about that same kind of respect from their peers, so LGBTQ students
will feel as included and respected as straight students.
Provision of appropriate school
system policies; staff training; emotional health supports within the school
and community such as counselors, psychologists, and social workers;
appropriate facilities; appropriate usage of names and pronouns, restorative
justice practices; and a culture of inclusiveness and respect for diversity;
should help LGBTQ students generally to have more positive and fulfilling
experiences in school, and to be more likely to maintain good emotional health.
These practices should also help to make our schools safer places for LGBTQ
students physically, as well as emotionally.
Anita Pandey, Ph.D., Candidate for Howard
County Board of Education
Since I started teaching at the
college level in the USA, in 1997, I have been actively promoting LGBTQ
rights. In my childhood (growing up in
mostly developing countries), I was pleased to see the “hijra” community
celebrated in northern India, and that was my first exposure to the LGBTQ
community. In many of the other nations
where I resided, LGBTQ rights were never discussed, so once I was made aware, I
wanted to be an advocate.
At The University of Memphis, my
students and I organized several Pride and anti-bias workshops focused on
educating residents of Shelby County on respect for members of our LGBTQ
community. My former graduate student,
Marvin Skinner who now teaches in Minnesota and one of my biggest advocates was
a proud member of the community and can attest to my advocacy. At Morgan State University where I currently
work, I continue my advocacy through classroom discussions, resources on LGBTQ
rights that I make a conscious effort to include (e.g., oral and written
testimonials, visuals and writings on language bias vs. inclusive verbal and
At least two members of my
department who are active members of the LGBTQ community can also speak to my
role in promoting LGBTQ rights. In HoCo,
my family and I have attended informative sessions offered through HopeWorks of
Howard County, and with parental support, my high schooler signed up to share
in this important work. [Our youngest is
also an advocate but does not yet meet the age requirements to sign up.]
Inclusion—in a comprehensive
sense—is what I see as the most pressing need for our LGBTQ members. This includes free choice in bathroom use
when bathrooms are gender-designated.
Members of the LGBTQ community should have the freedom to decide which
bathroom they wish to use without being made to feel ashamed and/or
attacked. Safety is a related and equally
I will continue to call for
respect and inclusion for the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. I will build and galvanize school- and
community-wide support through open dialog.
I will recommend that resources that feature our LGBTQ community—and in
a positive light--are required readings at every level of education, and that
we have LGBTQ support groups at every school, and PRIDE celebrations at every
neighborhood. I will push for the
construction of unisex bathrooms at both new and existing schools (like the
welcoming “Everyone” restrooms at Erikson Institute in Chicago), so that
members of our LGBTQ community do not feel singled out. In literature that goes out from HCPSS and at
school “family lounges” (which I would love for schools to have), I will ensure
that LGBTQ communities are represented through visuals and other means.
Sabina Taj, Candidate for Howard
County Board of Education
Through my work over the past
decade as an adviser to a family foundation, I’ve helped the family identify
and support a number of initiatives focused on anti-bullying and inclusive
curriculum efforts supportive of the LGBTQIA community. For instance, we
supported the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network based in NYC to train
teachers to recognize and appropriately respond to bias based behaviors. We
also recently provided support to the DC-based Advocates for Youth for teachers
to deliver a new and comprehensive LGBTQ-inclusive sexuality education
curriculum in schools across the country.
Though Maryland was the first
state in the country to pass same-sex marriage laws, the state and county
continue to face challenges in supporting the LGBTQIA community. Maryland falls
in the middle of the pack with respect to how well the state protects its
LGBTQIA citizens. Howard County, too, faces challenges. Even the Board of
Education candidates have had a difference of opinion about the positions they
feel the public school system should take to support LGBTQIA students, notably
transgender students. I have been unequivocal in my support of the LGBTQIA
community, in forums and throughout my campaign, and will continue to do so.
If elected to the Board, I
will support all efforts that promote a nurturing environment and will protect
LGBTQIA citizens from bias and harm in any way I can.
I’ve included a statement on my
campaign website that says: “We need to protect LGBTQIA youth, educators, and
staff from all discrimination, whether expressed as bias in the curriculum,
bullying on the playground, or bullying in the workplace. All school students
and staff should be educated and made aware that there are trusted adults to
whom they can turn.”
Chao Wu, Candidate for Howard County Board of Education
I have been a strong advocate
for all students in our county, including LGBTQ group. I have friends in LGBTQ
group. I attended their community meetings and I support their fight for equal
The most pressing concern/issue
is to make sure LGBTQ group is not left out (their voice can be heard) nor
singled out (they are treated equally as others) in our community.
I believe all students,
including those in Special Education, immigrant and undocumented students,
LGBTQ, and racial minorities, should be treated equally. As an immigrant and minority
myself, I know the challenges first hand.
As a board member, I will ensure
all the policies are non-discriminatory. I will ensure these policies are
implemented in a non-discriminatory way. Most importantly, I will ensure
everyone feels welcomed in school and everyone is expected to achieve the
highest standard no matter which “basket” he or she is in.
Family involvement and effective
communication is another crucial component of creating a supportive and
encouraging environment in our schools. We need to create an avenue for
families to communicate to the Board about the inequities they are facing in
order for the Board to pass policies to address these inequities. We should
create a straightforward, efficient and effective feedback mechanism for each
policy and each program such that we can engage with the students who are not
treated equally or need resources. Only through continuous effort and
improvement, we can provide an equitable learning opportunity for all.
I’d like to personally thank all the
candidates who have taken time out from their busy schedules and agreed to
participate in this effort and for their thoughtful positions on this important