Transgender Rights Bill Introduced in Maryland

A newly introduced piece of legislation aims to make Maryland the 18th state to outlaw discrimination against transgender people.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

January 14 2014 4:04 PM ET

Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County)

Earlier today, Maryland state senator Rich Madaleno, a democrat representing Montgomery County, introduced a bill that would outlaw discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodation.

The bill mirrors legislation that died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 6-5 last March. Proponents feel optimistic, citing cultural progress and the endorsement of some key political figures as reasons to believe this year's effort won't be a repeat of 2013.

"I am very hopeful," Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, told the Washington Blade. "Given the way the culture has changed in a progressive direction in Maryland and given the support we now have from the Senate and House leadership, we will get the votes in the Judicial Proceedings Committee to move the bill."

The legislation has 25 cosponsors and enjoys support from Attorney General Doug Gansler, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and out state delegate Heather Mizeur — all of whom are seeking the gubernatorial nomination. Gansler, Brown, and Mizeur, along with current governor Martin O'Malley, plan to testify in support of the bill.

“Having Anthony Brown come and testify and talk about it is going to be instrumental in the legislature,” Beyer told the Blade in reference to the popular Democratic gubernatorial front-runner.

Maryland's largest LGBT advocacy organization, Equality Maryland, has slated this bill and legislation that would ban "ex-gay" therapy as 2014 legislative focal points.

To some, Maryland's reputation on transgender rights brings back memories of the violent 2011 attack on Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman brutally beaten in a Baltimore County McDonald's after trying to use the women's restroom. The following year, the county passed a trans-specific amendment to the existing nondiscrimination ordinance.

Seventeen states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have antidiscrimination laws in place that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.

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