Friday, April 8, 2011

Brody's Notes... Maryland's Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act Gains Momentum

Maryland State House * Annapolis, Maryland
By Linsey Pecikonis (Annapolis, Maryland) APR 8 | In the closing days of the legislative session, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on House Bill 235 - the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act Thursday. The measure which extends legal protections to transgender Marylanders in the areas of credit, housing and employment, has been gaining traction as worked its way through a labyrinth of legislative hurdles in the past few weeks, and could be considered by the full senate Friday.
The Judiciary Proceedings Committee is poised to schedule a vote this morning. Advocates hope to see HB 235 favorably reported out of Committee and sent to the full Senate where they are working hard to shore up the necessary majority.
Testimony began shortly after 2 p.m. on House Bill 235, which passed the house for the first time last month, but it nearly died in the senate after a lobbying effort by constituents and elected officials, including the seven members of the Maryland legislature LGBT caucus, prompted Senate president Mike Miller to move the bill to the judicial proceedings committee. After week of hectic and intensive lobbying efforts led by Equality Maryland, it was agreed to hold hearings on the measure.
During testimony before the Senate panel yesterday, one of its members, Senator Robert Zirkin, (D-Baltimore County), angrily complained of being woken by robocalls against the bill in the middle of the night. Zirkin stated that the calls were attributed to, a website from anti-gay Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, which promotes scare-bias tactics about mixed-gender restrooms.
In her alloted timed testimony, Ruth Jacobs, president of MCRG, told Senators that she was opposed to the legislation because it would lead to transgender protections for public accommodations including bathrooms. The current measure does not cover public accommodations, which  transsexual and transgender advocates have opposed.
“We don't support H.B. 235 because it excludes public accommodations protections,” said Ashley Love, who testified in opposition with Jenna Fischetti of Trans Maryland and others. “Our goal is to see the day that the governor signs gender identity anti-discrimination protections, covering public accommodations, into law. We'll accept nothing less,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Dr. Dana Beyer, a longtime Transgender advocate and outspoken Maryland resident who ran for the Maryland House last year, supports the legislation, and said that the committee could vote in time to make it possible for the full senate to consider the bill today. She expressed hope, based on the last-minute revival of the bill this week, that the measure would be sent to the full Senate.
“I think we have enough strong Democrats who are willing to do the right thing on the judicial proceedings committee, and we know we have commitments on the senate floor," she said. "The question is, will they be there at the end of the day? Nobody is resting on their laurels.”
Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director, Equality Maryland said:
"Equality Maryland remains committed to doing all that we can to move this critical legislation forward in time for full passage this year. With just a few days left we're in a difficult struggle for these important protections.
HB 235 provides vital protections for 1 in 5 transgender Marylanders who lose employment because of discrimination. This legislation is long overdue in Maryland. Passage of this bill protects Maryland families from poverty, economic injustice, unfair discrimination, and will literally save lives. Every Marylander who believes in fairness and justice must call and email their legislator so that we can pass these important protections this legislative session. "
RELATED:  The Washington Post's Editorial board calls for passage of Maryland HB-235.