A newly established commission will help city officials take stock of issues affecting Baltimore’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, and devise a plan to address those problems.
Mayor Catherine Pugh announced the 15-member commission’s formation Thursday morning, with a call for applications from LGBTQ Baltimoreans and their allies. She formed the commission by executive order.
“While we have come a long way in terms of equality and acceptance as a society, there are still instances of discrimination, harassment, and sometimes violence towards the LGBTQ community,” Pugh said in a statement. “I am committed to providing a safe, fair, and affirming City for the LGBTQ community and look forward to the work of this Commission.”
In addition to advising the mayor’s office, city council and agencies on “issues of concern” for LGBTQ communities, the commission will be tasked with coordinating projects and making sure the city addresses LGBTQ residents’ most pressing problems and bridges gaps in access to city services.
In a statement to Baltimore Fishbowl, Nate Sweeney, executive director of Chase Brexton Health Care’s LGBT Health Resource Center, said his organization is “optimistic” about the move.
“At Chase Brexton, we serve LGBTQ patients across the lifespan, and we know that the issues they face overlap with the role and duty of the City of Baltimore at every level,” he said. “From transgender youth facing housing instability, to queer men in need of employment opportunities, to lesbian elders in need of safe senior services, our voices need to be heard at every level. It is our hope that the commission can represent the multitude of perspectives and voices needed to help steer the city to a brighter future.”
Mark Procopio, executive director of the LGBTQ civil rights nonprofit FreeState Justice, said via email that the commission is an “important step,” but noted “the LGBTQ community is far from monolithic. We hope that the Mayor will work hard to bring together a diverse set of voices on the commission.”
The mayor will appoint 12 of the commission’s members, and three more will be recommended by the council president. All members must be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, or be an ally of those groups. Each one will serve a four-year term on the commission.
Pugh’s executive order says the commission must meet quarterly and deliver a report to her office in one year that “outlines the state of Baltimore’s LGBTQ community,” including issues affecting residents’ quality of life, access to services, and employment and housing opportunities.
The city is taking applications at this portal through Feb. 23.
Just last week, Pugh announced plans to reinstate the city’s women’s commission, which had already been established in the city charter but had not been active in recent years. Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton approached Pugh about restoring the commission, a staffer from the mayor’s office told Baltimore Fishbowl.
This story has been updated.