By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com April 29 2014 3:34 PM ET
A conservative group led by a Republican member of Maryland's House of Delegates today announced its intention to overturn the state's recently passed transgender nondiscrimination act through popular vote. The group's apparent chairman is the founder of MDPetitions.com, Republican delegate Neil Parrott.
Late last month, the Maryland state legislature passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a bill designed to extend public accommodation, employment, and housing protections to transgender individuals.
MDPetitions.com urges visitors to "sign this petition to send the 'Bathroom Bill' — aka the 'Fairness for All Marylanders Act' — to the ballot in November so that the people can decide." The website goes on to misrepresent both the bill's intent as well as its likely outcome.
"The most egregious part of this bill will require business 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," the website reads. "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."
The website employs oft-used transphobic scare tactics, going on to cite the debunked myth of Evergreen State College student Colleen Francis, and falsely implies that an incident in which a man got caught spying on girls at an Indianapolis YMCA last fall would have been made legal by legislation like the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. In reality, Indianapolis already had a gender-identity inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in place, which did not impact the legal implications on the behavior of the YMCA peeping Tom.
The website lists as its chairman Parrott, a Republican who represents Maryland's 2nd district, covering Washington County. Parrott's official website proudly touts his founding of MDPetitions.com, claiming that "he was the architect of efforts to help put referendums on the ballot." Parrott has previously used his website to petition Marylanders to overturn the state's marriage equality legislation, including a link to a "documentary" called The Problem with Same Sex Marriage, from the Family Research Council, listed as a certified antigay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Other issues championed on Parrott's site include a challenge the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which prohibited the use or presence of deadly weapons on public school properties, as well as limiting who can carry, transport, and sell a weapon. Another campaign sought to overturn a legislative victory allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, calling the young people "illegal alien college students."
To combat the repeal effort, the Maryland Coalition for Transgender Equality launched "Stand for Fairness," a campaign designed to educate the public on the positive aspects of the law, and debunk any falsehoods pushed by the bill's opponents.
To qualify for the ballot, opponents of the bill will have to hit two benchmarks: they will need to gather 18,500 valid signatures by May 31, then if they meet that, must collect a total of 55,736 signatures by June 30. Should opponents receive the necessary number of valid signatures, voters will have the opportunity to determine the bill's fate this November.
In March, a Goucher College poll found that 71 percent of the state's residents supported the Fairness for all Marylanders Act.