A bill that would extend employment, housing, and public accommodations protections to transgender people in Maryland passed the State House of Delegates today in a vote of 82-57, with two delegates not voting. The bill now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has promised to sign it into law.
House Bill 1265 — the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 — exited the state's House Health and Government Operations Committee Tuesday with the support of 13 of the committee's 14 Democratic members. Eight Republicans and one Democrat voted against the bill, with one Republican member not voting. Minority Whip Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties, submitted two amendments to the bill that would have removed all references to public accommodations, though she eventually withdrew both.
"Today, the Maryland legislature brought this country one step closer to the promise of its founding documents by recognizing that everyone should be treated equally, including transgender Marylanders," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "Being free from discrimination on the job is one of the things that makes our economy thrive and our nation succeed. It's long past time for these essential workplace protections to extend from coast to coast and everywhere in between."
HRC also applauded the Maryland House for rejecting several attempts by conservative lawmakers to amend the bill and remove its comprehensive protections.
Republican delegates Neil Parrott and Anthony O'Donnell made unsuccessful efforts to delay the bill through a number of procedural motions and amendments introduced both in committee and on the House floor.. The two legislators were intimately involved in the 2012 effort to repeal marriage equality through public referendum, and are expected to mount a similar campaign against this bill in the event that it becomes law, according to Metro Weekly.
Like many laws related to transgender protections, this bill's opponents have often referred to it as a "bathroom bill," playing on unfounded fears of men pretending to be transgender in order to access women's facilities. This concept — that bills like these are dangerous pieces of legislation that would pave the way for sexual assault — has been thoroughly debunked, with experts in a number of states with similar protections telling Media Matters that these laws haven't led to any of the doomsday scenarios put forward by antitransgender groups.
The leader of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization National Center for Transgender Equality celebrated the victory in Maryland, framing it as part of a nationwide move to expanding nondiscrimination protections for LGB and especially transgender people. "With each new state joining the side of fairness and equality, we move closer to explicitly banning job discrimination against transgender people nationwide," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE. "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."