Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support for a bill that would outlaw discrimination against transgender people in Maryland, some conservative lawmakers are digging in their heels and trotting out tired, transphobic excuses to justify their opposition.
In a Goucher College poll released earlier this week, 71 percent of Maryland residents expressed support for an expansion of the state's nondiscrimination protections, currently working its way through the legislature as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. The bill, which prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of gender identity, enjoys bipartisan support among residents, with 79 percent of Democrats in favor, and 60 percent of Republicans in support of the bill.
But those numbers aren't swaying Republican Delegate Kathy Afzali of Frederick, Md. In a recent newsletter, Afzali reiterated her longtime opposition to LGBT rights, saying, "I am completely and unequivocally opposed to this bill," and suggesting that its purpose was to "normalize abnormal behavior."
Apparently unaware of the strong statewide support for the legislation, Del. Afzali added, "Like the majority of Marylanders, I share the view that [the bill] rejects our society's understanding of human nature," closing her statement by referring to a transgender woman as a "guy in a dress."
Opposition to the bill appears to be at least partially based on the oft-debunked fear that passing legislation that protects and guarantees equal accommodations to transgender people will lead to men invading women's restrooms and locker rooms in an effort to assault women.
Earlier this week, Media Matters released an extensive report tearing down that myth and flatly rejecting the claim that such protections lead to an increase in bathroom and locker room-based sexual assault.
Officials from 12 states, all with existing public accommodation legal protections for trans individuals, spoke to Media Matters on the consequences wrought by their state's policies.
"I am unaware of any sexual assault as the result of the Connecticut gender identity or expression law," Jim O'Neill, spokesman for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, told Media Matters. "I'm pretty sure it would have come to our attention."
Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, shared an identical view, telling Media Matters, "I am not aware of any increased sexual assault or rape in women's restrooms as a result of Maine's 2005 adoption of protections in the Maine Human Rights Act."
Cambridge, Mass., Police Superintendent Christopher Burke vouched for the 1997 city ordinance that provided transgender individuals with similar legal protections, saying, "There have been no incidents of men dressing up as women to commit crimes in female bathrooms and using the city ordinance as a defense."
Even so, anti-LGBT group Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government have established the predictably transphobic website NotMyShower.com, mirroring the "bathroom panic" tactics recently used by the Pacific Justice Institute in their efforts to stop a similar law in California guaranteeing equal access to transgender students.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 is currently making its way through the state's House of Delegates after passing the Senate by a vote of 32-15. Gov. Martin O'Malley has indicated that he will sign the bill should it pass the House.