ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced a proposal to create a permanent LGBTQIA+ Commission for Howard County. The new Commission would follow the work of an LGBTQ Workgroup launched in 2019, by County Executive Ball, that provided recommendations on best practices and improvements to support the LGBTQ community. Executive Ball unveiled the plan, which will require approval of the Howard County Council, at an event today, and photos of the event can be found here.
We will always support and affirm our LGBTQ community and need to take action in the face of increased attacks on gay and transgender equality across the country. Howard County can be a beacon and a model on how to uplift all our residents, and how to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
Building off the work and recommendations already made by the LGBTQ Workgroup, the commission will be made up of at least 13 members who are from the gay and transgender community or are representatives of regional LGBTQ organizations.
The commission will have the following responsibilities:
- Support efforts to organize, educate, and mobilize the LGBTQIA+ community through coalition building and coordination with allied individuals, groups and organizations;
- Identify best practices to affirm members of the gay and transgender community;
- Recommend initiatives to support LGBTQIA+ families and children; and
- Advise the County on policy and programs that impact our gay and transgender community, and on how to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk members of the LGBTQIA+ population.
- Support, plan, and execute events, like PRIDE, to celebrate and affirm the community.
The commission will also submit an annual report to the County Council and County Executive. Legislation for the commission is expected to be filed in July.
“This is not Texas. This is not Carroll County. This is Howard County. Today, we are saying loud and clear that queer voices will be heard, we will have our say in our government, and we will have a seat at the table,” said Register of Wills Byron MacFarlane, the first openly gay elected official in Howard County. “We are sending a message, especially, to our young people, who need now more than ever to hear from those of us in positions of leadership, that we see them and will do everything we can to give them a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment to grow and achieve their potential.”
“County Executive Ball listened to the workgroup members and understood the importance of establishing a permanent body in County Government to continue addressing the needs and services of our LGBTQIA+ residents,” said Office of Human Rights and Equity Administrator Yolanda Sonnier. “The work that is needed could not be concluded in 18 months. In fact, the quest to equality, eradicating discrimination and having equitable outcomes cannot be put on a timeline and having a permanent commission will allow the commissioners to address the evolving needs and concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
"Having a LGBTQ+ focus as part of the county’s government would raise awareness and would hopefully lead to measures to stem the tide of hate and inequality,” said Human Rights Commissioner Bob Ford.
“In the LGBTQ community, there is a sense of labeling us as other, but that’s not always true. We’re your students and your teachers. We’re business owners, family members, and friends. We’re in the community that you live in as well,” said Jumel Howard, President of PFLAG Howard County. “At the end of the day, we deserve to have not just a seat at the table, but our own table to sit at. A community like Howard County being able to provide the resources and support for people in the LGBTQ community to build that table and have this Commission and share what our actual concerns are with the community – rather than have the community decide what to deal with regarding us – it’s a very different feeling and a very positive feeling.”
“What I hope to elevate is a better understanding that our identities as parents are not just about our sexual orientation, but sexual orientation is a key piece of our identity that should be recognized,” said community member Becki Weiss Vivrette. “It is about teaching our children that love is love, that everyone deserves to give and receive love, and that they deserve to hear and read stories about families that look just like theirs. That our family should never feel ashamed for being proud of who we are.”