The Maryland Senate heard testimony Thursday concerning the proposed Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act that passed the House last month.
House Bill 235, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, which went through a number of amendments before receiving a final 86-52 vote in the House, would prohibit discrimination based on “a gender-related identity, or appearance of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” and fully covers employment and credit, while offering limited protections in housing.
Thursday’s debate showed that, as with many trans-inclusive nondiscrimination bills, opposition groups have taken to using anti-trans scare tactics to try and prevent the bill’s passing. The debate also showed the support the bill has garnered as well as highlighting the legitimate concerns over how far the bill’s protections extend.
From The Advocate:
During the hearing, Sen. Robert Zirkin, a Democratic committee member from Baltimore County, complained of receiving robocalls against the bill in the middle of the night. The calls were attributed to notmyshower.com, a website from Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, which promotes scare tactics about mixed-gender restrooms.
Ruth Jacobs, leader of the MCRG, said that she opposes the bill because it would lead to transgender protections for public accommodations including bathrooms. The current legislation does not cover public accommodations, which has led some transsexual and transgender advocates to oppose it.
“We don’t support H.B. 235 because it excludes public accommodations protections,” said Ashley Love, who testified in opposition with Jenna Fischetti of Trans Maryland and others. “Our goal is to see the day that the governor signs gender identity anti-discrimination protections, covering public accommodations, into law. We’ll accept nothing less,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Transgender advocate Dana Beyer, who supports the legislation, said the committee could vote in time to make it possible for the full senate to consider the bill Friday. She expressed guarded optimism based on the last-minute revival of the bill this week.
“I think we have enough strong Democrats who are willing to do the right thing on the judicial proceedings committee, and we know we have commitments on the senate floor,” she said. “The question is, will they be there at the end of the day? Nobody is resting on their laurels.”
The legislation had a narrow escape earlier this week when it was reassigned to the judicial committee having previously been assigned to a committee with no members where it would have surely died.
A full senate vote must occur before April 11 and the adjournment of the legislative session. As was the case in the lower chamber, the Maryland Senate has a Democratic majority.
As mentioned above, the bill has garnered criticism from some members of the trans community who point out that the bill’s lack of encompassing protections in public housing could set a dangerous precedent leaving trans people vulnerable without a remedy given how difficult it is to move trans-inclusive legislation.
Speaking to Metro Weekly trans activist Dana Beyer said that she had a commitment from the Senate President that if the bill cleared the judicial hearing, he would expedite a vote: “Senator Thomas Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George’s Counties) told us that if Equality Maryland could show him the votes on the Senate floor, if we get out of this committee, he will expedite our Senate vote,” Beyer is quoted as saying.