Baltimore County Council passed a bill Tuesday that would ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill passed in a 5-2 vote with all Democrats voting in favor.
Baltimore County’s Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) and Gender Rights Maryland were the main advocates behind the bill and have been keen to stress the significance of this law passing.
“This is a great day for Baltimore County” said Mark Patro, Chapter President of PFLAG Baltimore County. “Despite pressure from opposition groups, the County Council was able to look past the rhetoric of fear and do the right thing by securing these critical civil rights for all residents of Baltimore County.”
“Our success here in Baltimore County, and a few months ago in Howard County, is a testament to the forward thinking of our local elected officials. We would like to thank the entire Council for having the courage to pass this legislation and, in particular, Councilmember Tom Quirk for being a steadfast champion for passage of this bill. In the past 6 months we have collectively brought these protections to over one million more Marylanders. This should be a strong message to Annapolis that it is time to lead the rest of the state on this matter,” said Sharon Brackett, Board Chair for Gender Rights Maryland.
“Baltimore County will now join Howard, and Montgomery County and Baltimore City as the fourth jurisdiction in Maryland supporting these rights. This is a clear sign of exciting and changing times in Maryland for advocates of civil rights,” added Brackett.
The bill will now be forwarded to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz who is expected to sign the measure into law.
A statewide bill that would ban gender identity discrimination currently waits being taken up by the state Legislature. Senate President Mike Miller, who has an established history of resisting LGBT rights measures, is quoted as saying he can only deal with “one gay issue at a time.”
A controversial gender identity bill that did not include protections in public accommodations died in the Senate last year. Trans rights groups had resisted the bill, saying that it left them vulnerable with little hope of remedy.
Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has made passing a marriage equality bill a priority this year. While he has not included the gender identity bill in the legislative package he has said he supports the legislation. Whether that support will translate into action to pass these vital protections remains to be seen.