A broad coalition of progressive groups rallied outside the State House on Monday night, urging the General Assembly to adopt legislation designed to reduce violence against women and to promote women’s health, economic opportunity and “reproductive justice.”
Leaders of several legislative caucuses — representing women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and LGBT lawmakers — appeared alongside speakers from numerous advocacy organizations. With the General Assembly approaching the mid-point of the 2018 session, they hope to boost support for a package of more than 30 bills now being debated in Annapolis.
Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), head of the Women Legislators of Maryland, said the State House will be a safer environment for female lawmakers, staffers, interns and lobbyists if anti-harassment recommendations the group has formulated get adopted.
She noted that Maryland has the same number of women lawmakers — 60 of 188 — that it had in 2003.
“We have made no progress,” she said. “We should be having more women in elective office. We should have more women in our congressional delegation. We need to do a better job of electing women.”
All eight of Maryland’s congressional districts are represented by men, and both of the state’s U.S. senators are male.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said the presence of so many women — and male allies — on a cool, damp night was proof that they were committed to the cause. He said that when his mother was forced to find employment, “when my dad left,” in the 1970s, she was paid less than male colleagues doing the same work and encountered difficulty obtaining credit.
“Times have changed,” he said. “But it doesn’t come without hard work. There’s always opposition to change.”