Thursday, February 20, 2014

Maryland Senate Committee passes transgender rights bill

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed Senate Bill 212 (The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014) in a 8-3 vote Thursday.  The bill amends and updates the state's anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations to include transgender individuals.
During mark-up and debate on the bill three amendments were added to the bill including adding “gender identity” to existing law which exempts religious employers from complying with the law for “work connected with the carrying on by such religious corporations, association, educational institution or society of its activities.”
Current  state law allows this exemption for the categories of sexual orientation and religion; this amendment adds “gender identity” to the list.
In its written testimony on SB 212, the Maryland Catholic Conference pointed to this as one of the reasons they opposed the bill,” notes Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland’s Executive Director. “With this amendment, I hope they will consider supporting this bill in the House of Delegates.”
The second amendment carves out an exception for facilities that presumably would include locker rooms. If a facility wanted to be exempt from complying with the law they would be required to provide equivalent private space for transgender individuals.
In an emailed statement Thursday, Jenna Fischetti, with Trans Maryland told LGBTQ Nation,
“As a transgender woman, I know trans Marylanders have waited too long to be afforded critical protections in seeking and maintaining employment, finding, securing and keeping housing, and the just and proper access to the public fruits of life. 
The changes legislators made while in deliberation of this bill represent a small concession to unsubstantiated fears, and we look forward to success on the floor of the Senate."
The third amendment affects the definition of "gender identity." MCTE will consider the new definition and continue working with legislative champions as the bill goes through the Senate.