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Maryland House Passes Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill, Future In Senate Uncertain

March 28, 2011 3:46 pm ET by Equality Matters staff

The Maryland House of Delegates voted Saturday to pass a bill that would prohibit housing, employment, and credit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The bill now moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it will be championed by Senator Richard Madaleno.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, called the vote “a huge demonstration in support of fairness.”

The 86-52 vote closely followed party lines, with one Republican voting in favor of the bill. Still, the bill’s passage in the House is good news for those who feared Maryland’s recent failure to legalize same-sex marriage would doom other pro-LGBT legislation moving through the legislature:

The House’s approval of the gender identity bill by a solid 34-vote margin appears to indicate that transgender rights, while controversial, hasn’t elicited the intensity of opposition that surfaced over a Maryland same-sex marriage bill.

[…]

Some activists feared that the heated controversy over the decision to withdraw the marriage bill before a vote might make delegates less likely to support any LGBT-related bill, including a transgender rights bill.

The bill has received criticism from activists on both sides of the aisle. Opponents of the legislation have argued that it would “create disturbances” by enabling men to enter into women’s restrooms in the workplace, while transgender activists have criticized the bill for failing to include protections for discrimination in public accommodations.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, the author of the bill, argued that she chose to omit public accommodations protections in order to drum up the support necessary for the bill. In a quote for the Washington Blade, she explained:

“… I did so because the political reality is that I could not have gotten the bill out — look at the discussion today — if I had public accommodations in it. But it gives you protections.” [Washington Blade, 3/26/11]

The bill now moves to the Maryland Senate, where some fear time will run out before the bill comes to a final vote. Concerns center on Sen. Brian Frosh, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and who is largely responsible for whether the bill makes it to the Senate floor with enough time for a vote:

“I would encourage the LGBT and allied community to put their energy and focus on Sen. Frosh, who year after year has bottled up this bill in committee,” said Dan Furmansky, former executive director of Equality Maryland who has been working full time for the past month with pro-LGBT organizations in Annapolis on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Association. “Things are fluid … I wouldn’t be surprised if he schedules a late hearing so time runs out.”

Furmansky said that Frosh refused to bring a similar bill to a vote in 2009, even though Equality Maryland had requested it. Now that the full House has passed the measure, Furmansky said he hopes Frosh will schedule a committee vote as soon as possible.

Several sources have confirmed that the bill has enough votes for passage if it is moved through committee quickly enough.

Marylanders should contact Sen. Brian Frosh to demand that he allow the transgender antidiscrimination bill to come to a full Senate floor vote.

Phone: (410) 841-3124
(301) 858-3124
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3124 (toll free)

Fax: (410) 841-3102
(301) 858-3102

Email: brian.frosh@senate.state.md.us

Previously:

In Maryland, NOM Plays The Race Card... Again

The Washington Post: Maryland Demonstrates The Need To "Cultivate Grass-Roots Support"

In Maryland, Delegates Downplay Civil Rights Struggle Of LGBT Americans




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