Maryland is on the verge of passing a new trans-inclusive antidiscrimination law — one most Marylanders appear to think is already on the books. For anyone fair minded, this is common sense legislation, but of course religious conservatives are rallying with lies and disgusting distortions to try to fight the bill.
The legislation, called the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, passed the Senate last week by a 32-15 vote. The bill would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity across the public accommodations, housing and employment sectors while at the same time giving exemptions to religious institutions. The bill also specifies very clearly what it meant by “gender identity,” saying:
“Gender identity” is defined as a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.
The legislation carries some strong exemptions beyond just the standard religious exemptions. For instance, the legislation allows for employers to establish and require employees to adhere to reasonable workplace dress codes and grooming standards on the provision that an employee is allowed to appear, groom and dress in the manner which conforms to their gender identity.
The legislation also allows someone who is renting a room in their house to discriminate on this basis providing they do not exceed five so-called rental units.
Only one Republican voted for the measure in the Senate, Allan Kittleman. However, he did so after delivering a strong message in favor of the bill that aimed to slap down unfounded criticisms that the bill is too vague: “It is not our job to discriminate. The bill is carefully crafted. The definitions are clear.”
Indeed, just a glance at the legislation shows that the terminology has been carefully thought out and well put together to ensure fairness. That hasn’t stopped the religious right from coming up with their objections and, at turns, absolutely disgusting rhetoric to try combat the bill.
While Republicans like Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County) decried the legislation because, they said, it should have broader religious exemptions of the Arizona (and now Mississippi) “religious conviction” variety, some anti-LGBT groups have gone even further.
PFOX, that is Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, issued a breathless release this week asking that their followers contact the General Assembly and urge their lawmakers to vote down the bill. In so doing, they made a number of ridiculous claims but none more so than this absolutely despicable anti-trans lie:
Yesterday, the Maryland Senate voted 32-15 to pass SB 212 — the “Bathroom Bill” — a bill which would allow men to use women’s bathrooms and vice versa according to their “gender identity”¯. Now the bill is headed to the House of Delegates where it is highly likely to pass as well.
SB 212 defines “gender identity” as … In other words, if a boy decides he is a girl, he can use the girls’ room if this bill becomes law.
Already, some grown men try to hide in women’s bathrooms to commit their crimes, as in the case of Frank F. Fuchs, a Missouri resident, who hid in public restroom stalls at least twice with a video camera, which he used to film occupants of nearby stalls. Under this bill Frank would be quite welcome to boldly walk into the ladies’ room where he could continue taping–or worse. All he has to do is claim he identifies as a woman.
Not only does this bill undermine our reasonable expectation of privacy in the bathroom, locker room, or shower room, it opens up women and girls to serious threats to their safety. Recently, a man visited the girls shower room at an Indianapolis YMCA on several occasions, according to wthr.com. Again, if this bill becomes law, he would be legally able to do the same thing in Maryland if he simply claims to identify as a woman.
Here PFOX has taken two examples of serious criminal activity and attempted to conflate those acts with this bill. Let’s just go down the list of what’s wrong here.
First it’s worth establishing that Missouri has no trans or gay inclusive nondiscrimination law. Nor does Indiana, though Indianapolis does have a limited local ordinance. Regardless, none of the cases highlighted above involved actual trans people. That’s because PFOX and the religious right cannot come up with examples of trans people abusing these nondiscrimination laws or the nondiscrimination laws actually leading to widespread abuse despite the fact that more than 20 U.S. states have these laws and, in some cases, have had them for a number of years.
Second, the legislation is very clear that gender identity means an identity with which someone has consistently identified. That means that a man would not be legally able to visit a woman’s showerroom simply by claiming to be a woman, and this is a ridiculous and flagrant lie.
Religious conservative media sites are currently scrambling to find other cases where men have posed as women in order to sexually abuse women, and in some cases they have been able to find isolated incidents that are ripe for being distorted. However, what they have not found is any concrete statistic that trans rights legislation like this in any way significantly boost assaults on women. That’s because they don’t. This kind of legislation simply serves to allow women and men who were wrongly sex assigned at birth to access the public facilities they require.
As PFOX rightly states though, the legislation should have enough support in the Maryland General Assembly and, when it does pass, Governor Martin O’Malley has indicated his support for the bill. It’s taken more than eight years for a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law to make its way through the Maryland legislature and, pleasingly, it looks like the lies from anti-LGBT groups won’t be able to stop it this time around.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.
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