Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday that a national LGBT rights organization, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, regrets having been involved in an effort — that ultimately failed — to stop a gambling measure supported by O'Malley from moving forward in the legislature.
"I think they got spun," O'Malley said of the Task Force, which sent a mailing to Maryland voters saying that if they favored expanding marriage rights, they should — for tactical reasons — oppose the push to expand gaming. "They had some board members that had a conflict of interest with the gaming companies, and they got a bit spun on that and hopefully they’ve learned from the experience."
But the organization's head voiced no regret today.
"We do not regret fighting for marriage equality," the Task Force's executive director, Rea Carey, told BuzzFeed, standing by earlier statements on the subject.
In the days before the Maryland legislature began a special session this summer that resulted in a measure to expand gambling in the state, the Task Force's Action Fund set up a Maryland independent expenditure committee and sent the mailer urging Maryland voters who support marriage equality to tell lawmakers there to oppose the measure to expand gambling in the state.
Task Force officials have refused to say how the mailer was funded, other than to say that it was funded by the Task Force's Action Fund — despite others saying that the Task Force initially told those who asked that it was funded by an anonymous donation. The organization also has refused to provide information about how many mailers were sent or how much was spend on the effort.
The Task Force has stated that an "uncluttered ballot" would be the best possible circumstance for the marriage equality bill referendum that already was slated to be on the fall ballot. They reasoned that opponents of expanded gambling would be working to get out conservative voters also likely to oppose the marriage equality bill — a position questioned by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the official organization fighting to keep the marriage equality bill.
Existing gambling operations in Maryland have been among the most strongly opposed to the expansion, and The Washington Blade reported on an alleged connection between the Task Force and the opposition through Task Force Action Fund board member Monique Hall and her employer, the DCI Group.
Although O'Malley did not name any specific board member or board members, he did say of the Task Force that he was "surprised that they would have inserted themselves in that."
"I would tell you in retrospect they regret having been involved in that," he said.
The Task Force's Carey fought back against that notion, telling BuzzFeed in a statement, "Our sole concern was and continues to be getting marriage equality over the finish line in Maryland. We do not have a position on gaming, but rather on marriage equality. Concerns had been raised that having the gaming measure added to the ballot could jeopardize the outcome of the marriage equality vote, which was the focus of the mailer.
"This has never been about anything other than ensuring that nothing gets in the way of securing marriage equality in Maryland. Period," Carey stated.
She did not respond to the repeated questions about who funded the effort or how much the organization spent on the effort.
The statement is the first by the group's executive director on the controversy, as she had been on a sabbatical over the months of July and August and did not respond to any requests for comment during that time. Comments about the issue had come from communications director Inga Sarda-Sorensen and deputy executive director Darlene Nipper.