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Trans Equality is Coming to Maryland! (But the Fight’s Not Over)

Trans Equality is Coming to Maryland! (But the Fight’s Not Over)

In a historic vote, the Maryland legislature has finally approved a bill to grant trans citizens basic civil rights protections, but there are groups already working to overturn this important civil rights victory via a public ballot.

The legislation, known as House Bill 1265 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity in sectors like employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. It would also prohibit the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation from discriminating on grounds of gender identity. The legislation carries exemptions for small businesses and guest houses and mandates that while provisions should be made to accommodate people in gender transition, employees must still adhere to required dress codes and all other standards that are required of their self-identified gender. The legislation also serves to close some of the remaining gaps in protections for people based on their sexual orientation.

The legislation passed the Senate earlier this year in a 32-15 vote and, despite Republican lawmakers unsuccessfully attempting to amend the legislation to strip it of its public accommodations protections, it passed the House in a vote of 82-57 with two delegates not voting. The legislation now heads to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk where he, a known supporter of the legislation, is expected to sign in the coming few weeks.

With this vote the Maryland legislature brings to a close what has been over 15 years of struggle. As such, a leading trans rights group the National Center for Transgender Equality has hailed the victory, saying it is part of a broader movement toward fairness and justice for all people. “With each new state joining the side of fairness and equality, we move closer to explicitly banning job discrimination against transgender people nationwide,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE is quoted as saying. “After years of advocacy and organizing in Annapolis, Maryland’s choice to stand behind transgender people is a reminder to our elected officials on Capitol Hill that it’s overdue for them to take action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

With this legislation Maryland will join 17 states plus DC and Puerto Rico in protecting people on grounds of gender identity and gender expression in the employment, housing, credit and public accommodations sectors.

As we have previously reported, while religious conservative groups attempted to derail the bill by labeling it a “bathroom bill,” and with talk of how it would jeopardize the safety of women by supposedly leaving them vulnerable to men masquerading as women in women’s restrooms, it appears the campaign has fallen on deaf ears. The other talking point the Right has often used has been that the legislation will cause an influx of frivolous lawsuits. We have data and accounts from over 15 law enforcement professionals from areas where this kind of legislation is already in place to back up the fact that these aspersions simply aren’t true.

Perhaps that’s why a recent poll by Goucher College showed that an overwhelming majority of Marylanders (71 percent), across most demographics including race, gender and political divide (Republicans polled at 60 percent support compared to Democratic affiliates at 79 percent), supported all of the legal protections encompassed in this legislation.

Nevertheless, and unfortunately for Maryland, the Religious Right isn’t willing to admit defeat so easily. There have been suggestions of taking the bill to a public ballot, chiefly by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), chairman of MDPetitions.com, and one of the leaders of an effort to put same-sex marriage to the ballot in 2012. While it is a possibility they could muster enough anti-trans animus to get the bill before voters it would take an extraordinary effort to reverse support for the Fairness for all Marylanders Act.

A public referendum would therefore have to rely on the kinds of scaremongering anti-trans groups have already used in their campaigns to defeat the bill, such as insinuating that seeing trans people in restrooms will “confuse” or “distress” children or that trans people might even sexually assault kids–these terrible accusations made, of course, with no evidence to back up their claims. As such, the campaign could prove derisive and even dangerous for trans citizens who already face heightened levels of prejudice. So do give a qualified celebration for this victory, but expect another ballot battle to defend these hard won rights because it’s likely it will come, and it will be bitter.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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55 comments

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1:34PM PDT on Jun 18, 2014

Equal rights: Not privileges.

6:28AM PDT on May 13, 2014

Steve Williams is trying to ridicule a proposal to death, but does not tell you what it is. So do you agree with him or disagree? (Since it is Steve Williams' case, my own disagreement comes as an automatic reflex action.)

Here is one side of the issue. You can infer the other.

"The Maryland legislature just passed SB 212, the “Bathroom Bill”, deceptively named the “Fairness For All Marylanders Act”. The most egregious part of this bill will require businesses to open up their public facilities (bathrooms, saunas, shower rooms, locker rooms, etc.) so that men can use the ladies’ room and women can use the men’s room. They can use the wrong facilities simply based on them saying that at the time they “sincerely held as part of [their] core identity” that they were the opposite sex. "

So do you think this side is right or wrong? Good or bad? Is this what Steve Williams advocates or that which he opposes? Everyone, do you own research before responding.

2:06AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

thank you for the article

2:05AM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

noted

7:44PM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

A good cause, and no, the fight is nowhere close to over.

4:26PM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

The law MUST protect us all from the ''righteous'' who would impose their wrath on those whose only ''crime'' is being different.

5:24AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

It is about time. Trans people need to be heard and the law needs to protect them.

11:53AM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

Jacob, Really it's more embarrassing to be so hung-up on genitals that you've reduced "transgender" to using the "wrong bathroom."

11:44AM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

You don't peek inside someone's panties before you decide whether they are male or female so you probably meet people who are transgendered all the time and don't even know it!!

11:16AM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

When we seem to overcome one form of prejudice, the human race finds something else to tear down.

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Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
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