Transgender equality bill passes in Maryland
Correction (4/1): The word “transgendered” was changed to “transgender” to better reflect the standards set by GLAAD.
The Maryland House of Delegates voted Thursday to approve of a bill which will ban discrimination based on gender identity in areas of employment and housing and public spaces, which includes sports venues, hotels, restaurants, and theaters.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, which had already passed the state senate, includes exemptions for religious institutions, private clubs and educational institutions.
When Governor Martin O’Malley signs the bill, as he has said he will, he will make Maryland the 18th state to have legal protections for transgender individuals.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s important for people to understand that just because [the] law changes and provides additional protection, doesn’t mean that the work is done,” Associate Director for LGBT Student Development Joel Bolling said.
Bolling said that a lot of discrimination comes from either a lack of information or from misinformation, and that education is key. He also said that this applies particularly to the transgender community.
“It’s important for people to have a more broad and deep understanding to understand what it means to be transgender in our society,” he said.
As the legislative session draws to a close, eyes are turning to the gubernatorial election that is taking place in the fall. Both parties are currently engaged in primary races to determine who their candidate will be.
The Democratic candidates, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, State Del. Heather Mizeur and Attorney General Doug Gansler were all in favor of the bill.
Mizeur spoke strongly and passionately in support of the bill on the house floor.
“We can have a difference of opinion on the issues, but let’s not forget that at the end of the day, the underlying issue in this legislation is whether or not some of our most vulnerable members of society are still allowed to get beat up in these bathrooms…whether or not they’re going to be able to be fired from their jobs, whether or not they can be kicked out of their houses – we are talking about people who are suffering real harm in this state,” she said during the floor debate on the bill.
Before the House debate, Gansler submitted testimony in favor of the bill.
“As the Supreme Court has written, the guarantee of equal protection under the law stems from our American ideal of fairness, and no one should be able to single out individuals for unfair treatment due to their gender identity or sexual orientation without legal consequences,” his testimony reads.
The Towerlight received no response from Brown’s campaign. Brown put out a press release calling the passage of the bill an “important step to protect all Marylanders.”
In a press release, Gansler congratulated the legislators who worked on the bill in both chambers, and said that Maryland can now “move much closer to ensuring equal protection for all.”
Mizeur called the chance to vote on the bill an “awesome opportunity” and one of the votes she got to be a part of to “change the course of history for all Marylanders.”
“We all deserve to be protected equally under the law,” Mizeur said. “And now we can rest knowing our transgender brothers and sisters will have this right, no matter in which corner of state they choose to live.”
The Towerlight reached out to Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Harford County Executive David Craig and businessmen Charles Lollar and Larry Hogan and did not receive any comment.
State Delegate Ron George, another Republican seeking his party’s nomination, voted in opposition to the bill.
“The bill is too loosely written, it’s not thought out enough, and it was pushed through,” he said.
George did emphasize that he is not “a hateful person” and that he believes “everyone should be treated equally.”
He did express concern, however, of people abusing the law to enter restrooms and take advantage of the situation. He was not necessarily speaking of transgender persons, but of anyone that could potentially take advantage of the new law.
He said that if he saw someone who appeared to be a man enter a restroom after his daughter, he would likely follow and then confront the individual.
“This bill will actually make me the aggressor,” he said.
Other Republicans and some Democrats expressed similar concerns over what they called the “Bathroom Bill.”
Bolling, however, said that there is no credibility to those kinds of comments.
“We don’t see any increase in predators in restrooms, we don’t see increases in sexual assault or anything like that,” he said.