Fresh off the back of an albeit qualified victory for marriage equality in Maryland, attention now turns to passing nondiscrimination protections for Maryland’s trans citizens.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, Feb. 28 from opponents and proponents of a proposed bill, SB 212, that would make discrimination based on gender identity or expression illegal in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.
A similar bill that did not include protections for public accommodations passed the House of Delegates last year, 86-52, but failed in the Senate. Advocates hope that this year, especially with marriage equality off the table, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George’s counties) will be more amenable to allowing an up-or-down vote by the full chamber.
“Marriage will be out of the Senate, and there will be no other ‘gay’ bills on the table, just our non-gay ‘gay’ bill,” Dana Beyer, executive director of the transgender rights organization Gender Rights Maryland, had told Metro Weekly after the Baltimore County Council passed protections for sexual orientation and gender identity at a Feb. 21 meeting.
As mentioned above, a state-wide bill to ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression floundered last year. The bill was controversial among trans rights groups because it failed to cover trans citizens in the public accommodations sector, an oversight that trans groups said left them vulnerable, and something legislators would be unlikely to later go back and remedy. It is hoped that, perhaps emboldened by Governor O’Malley’s vocal support, no such compromise will be offered this time.
Debate surrounding trans nondiscrimination legislation usually brings out some awful shows of ignorance, and the Senate Committee hearing this time was, according to reports, no different.
Similar to a hearing on the bill last year, witnesses testifying against the bill, among other things, said it would endanger women by allowing male “cross dressers” to use women’s bathrooms in public places. Supporters called that claim baseless, saying no problems have surfaced concerning bathrooms in jurisdictions across the country that have passed similar non-discrimination laws, including Baltimore City and Montgomery County in Maryland.
A further hearing on the bill has yet to be scheduled.
As mentioned above, Baltimore County Council recently passed a bill that would ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Read more on that here.