“We can’t count on Washington to protect our civil rights… Marylanders need a governor with the courage to do that at the state level and when I’m elected that’s exactly what we’ll do.” – Ben Jealous, Democratic candidate for governor

It’s no secret that we’re into September and the nitty-gritty heart of election season in Maryland. It’s no secret that the current Republican governor has a nearly bottomless war chest and a barrage of state-wide television ads flooding the airways. It’s no secret that Democratic candidate Ben Jealous has struggled early to find his messaging. But it also should be no secret that electing Ben Jealous to be the next governor of Maryland is vital to the LGBT community. Now is the time for us to act, individually, and collectively. Our futures depend on it.

Some may think it too dramatic to proclaim that our futures hang in the balance. But those futures are inextricably linked to the future of every other woman, man, and child in Maryland, and all over this country. And day after day after day, we hang on the edge of a raw and horrifying precipice. This precipice is forged of all that is the worst of America – the raging discrimination and fear of our human differences, the undeserved privilege, wealth and power, the unbalanced meting out of justice in a civilized society, and the turning of a blind eye to inhumane living conditions. So, for those who think it is “okay” to return Republican Larry Hogan to office because he seems like a reasonable guy, it is time for the members of the threatened LGBT community to proclaim this isn’t so.

In today’s world, the stakes have been raised to unheard-of-heights. We are led by a governor who has not had the courage these past two years to stand up to the current president and shout from the rooftops against his policies, statements, and human philosophy (i.e., the rich, straight white guys eat everyone else). Hogan’s measured and mealy-mouthed avoidance of opposing the current president’s actions is nothing short of unforgivable. And in his second term? He’s only going to get more conservative, and more ambitious. Count on more hate crimes due to Hogan’s lack of fighting tooth and nail the Trump Discrimination Agenda, more anti-LGBT judge and board appointments, and more funding for charter schools that discriminate against LGBT students, just for starters…

Who is coming to save us, you may be asking? No one. Not a damn soul. So guess what – it’s up to us to get our act together and form the most outrageously beautiful and strong rainbow-colored coalition to help elect the best-of-America-inspired-candidate, who at least will fight for us. Ben Jealous may just be (dare I say it?) – imperfect. He may be under-funded. But he definitely can’t do it without us. We need to help bring him in, on our backs and on our sweat.

Who exactly is Ben Jealous? Well, he’s the product of an interracial marriage which was against the law at the time (his mother grew up in Baltimore’s McCulloh Homes). He’s the product of two civil rights workers who spent their lives fighting injustice. He’s the product of a childhood spent enduring the hatred of those who looked upon his family with disgust and discrimination, the product of a time when he was chaperoned through every aisle of the five-and-dime while the white kids roamed freely. He knows what it’s like to be different. He rose to become the youngest leader of the NAACP, so he was also the product of aspiration, hard work, dedication, and no doubt some good luck along the way.

Who else is Ben Jealous? He’s the guy who used his leadership of the NAACP to come out in favor of marriage equality at a crucial and critical time in 2012, by pushing back against both the reluctance of sectors of the black community and black leadership and the simplistic stereotyping of this reluctance in the white community. He lived and breathed a childhood of marriage inequality, and so he used his adulthood to fight for marriage equality. His childhood friend with whom he grew up and identified as his brother was discriminated against from an early age due to his gender identity; he fought with him against the bullies as a child and uses his adulthood fighting for trans rights. A product of civil rights warriors, he uses his adulthood to fight the civil rights battles of this time: rights for ignored minorities, African-Americans, women, LGBT people, immigrants, workers, the economically distressed, the uninsured, the under-educated, the present and formerly incarcerated, the elderly, and the disabled. Back in 2012 he was stating that we need to be defined by ”Our ongoing work to defend the rights of immigrants, our work to champion the push-back against religious tolerance and our work to ensure that the LGBT community is not discriminated against in employment or in any other aspect of their life. The more we honor and embrace the diversity in all our communities the more we will succeed.”

In her endorsement, Rea Carey, head of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said that Jealous has “spent his life building broad diverse coalitions to protect and advance the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Ben and I share the same vision for a world where discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is eradicated, and he has shown the courage and bold leadership LGBTQ people and their families deserve. He has stood firm against anti-LGBTQ legislation and, under his leadership, the NAACP supported marriage equality and fought for employment and housing rights for transgender Marylanders.”

In 2012 Jealous stated that we must “fight with vigor and urgency or we risk losing all that we have gained and all that we stand to gain. Because as I stand here today those of us who stand for freedom, justice, and equality are in the midst of an epic battle against those who wish to redefine the moral center of our country. We are in a battle with those who seem more inspired by our nation’s dim past than its inspired future.” This is truer today than it has ever been. Ben Jealous’s campaign office is at 1023 Cathedral Street. I’ll meet you there.

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Sage Piper
Sage Piper
Sage Piper lives on poetry, coffee, the Resistance, and lots of pasta. She works all day supporting those who choose to spend their lives working to improve her beloved Bmore and the lives of her fellow citizens, in every neighborhood. Sage came to Baltimore in the 1980’s to study political science and attend Johns Hopkins University, fell full-swoon into the open, irresistible arms of Charm City, and she has never left. Along the way she has been a restaurant sous chef, a White House intern, an elementary school teacher, an incurable optimist, and a fervent political junkie. On off hours, you can probably find Sage running with Back On My Feet,hanging at Red Emma’s, dancing til dawn, or sipping Zeke’s coffee and buying local produce, pickles, and garlic olives every Saturday morning at the Waverly Farmer’s Market. Sage’s favorite time of year is when Baltimore springs to life amid the crack of baseball bats in the air, both weekend Farmer’s Markets in full swing,and road bikes tuning up for the140-mile ride with many big-hearted soulmates for the Ride For The Feast to raise money and support her favorite mission, Moveable Feast in Baltimore.