Maryland Gender-Identity Bill Enters Round 8
Marking the eighth year in a row for the effort, LGBT-rights advocates testified Tuesday before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of a bill that would prohibit discrimination against people based on their gender identity or expression.
Just as supporters of the bill have made the annual trek to the Maryland State House in Annapolis since the first such bill was introduced in 2007, so too have the measure’s opponents, once again out in force.
Because the committee makeup is largely unchanged from last year, the Tuesday’s arguments echoed those made in years past, with supporters sharing their personal stories of discrimination and opponents raising a wide range of objections. Those objections range from what they call an ’’unnatural’’ concept of gender identity to hypothetical and fanciful horror scenarios - focusing largely on public accommodations like restrooms and locker rooms - that both sexually objectify transgender people and attempt to link them to common criminals, under the guise of ’’protecting women and children.’’
SB 212, sponsored by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery Co.), who is gay, and co-sponsored by 24 other senators - meaning it has enough to pass the full Senate if ever brought to a floor vote - has the support of several progressive organizations, liberal-leaning religious groups and leaders, and the state’s two largest LGBT organizations, Equality Maryland and Gender Rights Maryland. Among the groups opposing the measure are the Family Research Council, the Maryland Catholic Conference and Maryland Citizens for Responsible Government, a group that unsuccessfully tried to overturn Montgomery County’s gender-identity nondiscrimination law after it passed in 2007.
Other backers of the bill include Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and all three Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for governor: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur (Montgomery Co.). O’Malley, Brown and Gansler all submitted written testimony in favor of the measure, while Mizeur testified in person before the committee.
Mizeur and several of the other witnesses in favor of SB 212 pointed out that four of the state’s largest jurisdictions - Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties - have already adopted similar measures. But they also emphasized the importance of passing a statewide law to protect residents living in other Maryland jurisdictions.
’’Protection against discrimination shouldn’t depend on your zip code,’’ Mizeur told the committee.
Susan Gerb, a transgender woman, testified that she always has to be aware of which county she’s in because of the disparity in laws between various counties and the possibility that she could potentially be denied access to services or public accommodations due to her gender identity. And yet, she noted, while she doesn’t have the same rights in Harford or Cecil counties as she does in Baltimore County, nearby states like Delaware and New Jersey have in place laws similar to SB 212 that provide protections for transgender individuals.
’’This isn’t right,’’ Gerb said. ’’You need to fix this.’’