As more state and
local governments extend antibias protections to
transgender people, fierce opposition is surfacing. In
Colorado, conservatives contend that a new state law
will enable sexual predators to frequent women's
bathrooms; in Maryland a "Not My Shower" campaign
seeks to overturn a comparable county law.
by the resistance and insistent that the alarms are
unfounded, transgender rights activists are heartened by an
overall trend toward greater protection under the law.
In the past 15 years, 13 states and more than 90
cities and counties -- home to roughly 40% of the U.S.
population -- have passed measures banning various types of
discrimination against transgender people.
jurisdictions is Maryland's affluent Montgomery County,
where the county council voted 8-0 last year to extend
civil rights protections for housing, employment, and
public accommodations on the basis of gender identity.
contending the law threatens privacy in public restrooms and
health club showers, launched a petition campaign to put the
issue to voters in the November 4 general election.
Election officials ruled that enough valid signatures
were gathered, but gay rights groups were in court
Thursday seeking to quash the ballot measure because of
If the ballot
measure survives, activists on both sides say November 4
would mark the first time that voters anywhere in the United
States will pass judgment specifically on a
transgender rights measure. Dan Furmansky, head of the
statewide gay rights group Equality Maryland, hopes
the showdown is averted.
"I think we could
win, but it would be a very expensive, defensive
proposition," he said. "We don't want to subject our
transgender brothers and sisters to a campaign of
fear-mongering where their civil rights are up for a
A spokeswoman for
opponents of the new law, Michelle Turner of Maryland
Citizens for Responsible Government, blamed the county
council for the controversy, saying it enacted the
bill despite an outpouring of calls and letters
"We want the
citizens of Montgomery County to have their voices
heard," Turner said. "They were ignored once, and now it's
with a website called NotMyShower.net, has focused on
access to public bathrooms and locker rooms. They contend
that the new law entitles someone who is biologically
male but self-identifies as female to use the women's
bathroom, leaving open the chance that molesters would
take advantage of the measure to intrude into such
"No longer will
women and girls be able to feel completely safe," the
group says. "The outrageous legislation ... may result in
forcing even religious schools to hire transgender
teachers -- and then also allow cross-dressing but
biological males in your daughter's school locker
conservative groups waged a similar campaign last month to
block a bill that bans discrimination against gay and
transgender people in housing and public
accommodations. Radio ads urged listeners to tell Gov.
Bill Ritter he shouldn't sign the bill, though he proceeded
to do so on May 29.
every woman and little girl will have to fear that a
predator, bisexual, cross-dresser, or even a homosexual or
heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in
their presence," wrote James Dobson, founder of the
conservative ministry Focus on the Family.
activists say there is no record of any problem with
predators or any other type of bathroom or shower harassment
arising from the transgender rights laws already in
place in scores of jurisdictions.
"It just does not
happen -- it's entirely fabricated," said Mara
Keisling, executive director of the National Center for
Transgender Equality. "There's not a single case in
the U.S. of the problem they're talking about."
A Focus on the
Family spokesman, Gary Schneeberger, suggested problems
might surface in the future.
early in the genesis of these types of laws for there to
be a lot of concrete evidence that predators will abuse
them," he wrote in an e-mail. "But the law does,
indeed, make it possible -- and we would hardly be
surprised if anecdotal evidence starts pouring forth
Dana Beyer, a
transgender activist in Montgomery County, said many of the
conservative activists seeking to overturn the antibias law
had previously campaigned against school curriculum
addressing sex education and sexual orientation.
"These are people
living in the 19th century," Beyer said. "They don't
want to have to think of people like me.... They're
willing to spend time and money and effort to prevent any
sort of accommodation for transgender women."
Though she would
relish victory for her side on November 4, Beyer
supports the fight to keep the repeal measure off the
"To win, we'd
have to run a campaign costing hundreds of thousands of
dollars," she said, noting that the top funding priority for
national gay rights groups will be California's ballot
measure on gay marriage.
activists also are focusing attention on Congress, where
liberal Democrats are seeking a federal ban on workplace
discrimination against gays. Thus far, to the dismay
of many activists, there is hesitancy to include
transgender people in the proposed bill, for fear of
jeopardizing its prospects.
New York State
also is a zone of contention; the Democratic-dominated
assembly voted last week for a transgender rights bill, but
it's given no chance of clearing the
Republican-controlled state senate.
opposition to transgender rights runs counter to the
changing so fast in colleges, cities, businesses that
we can barely keep up," she said. "The arc of history is
clear -- we will get our rights." (AP)