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Popular Topics in The Arts
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Topics In the News
 
Maryland Approves Transgender Rights Bill
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/28/14
Last updated on: 03/28/14
 
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On March 27, 2014, Maryland's House of Delegates passed a measure to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The bill, which had previously passed the Senate, now goes to Governor O'Malley for his signature. Maryland will join 17 states and the District of Columbia in providing comprehensive protections to transgender citizens.

As Brian Witte reports for the Associated Press, the House of Delegates passed the measure 82-57 after a long and sometimes heated debate that focused largely on how the bill would affect use of public restrooms and gym showers.

All 82 delegates who voted for the bill were Democrats, while 42 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted against the bill, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and use of public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants.

The legislation defines gender identity as the gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person's assigned sex at birth. Under the bill, gender identity is demonstrated as "consistent and uniform assertion of the person's gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person's core identity."

Predictably, opponents focused on whether men would be allowed to use women's restrooms, and worried about men who identified as women would be able to shower with girls at public swimming pools.

Jenna Johnson reports in the Washington Post that "Lawmakers have fought over whether to pass a bill protecting transgender individuals for more than seven years."

The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Richard Madaleno Jr., who is openly gay, said that "People realized that no one should be denied a job, should be thrown out of their home, should be denied a place to eat dinner just for living a life as who they are." Madaleno is running for re-election against a challenger who is transgender.

During the debate in House of Delegates some opponents made jokes about transgender people and one Delegate cited the bible as he proclaimed that God "made men as men and women as women."

At one point, openly lesbian Delegate Heather Mizeur, who is running for governor, rose to her feet. "I've never been more disappointed in the conduct of our conversation on the House floor," she said.

"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," said Mizeur, who added, "We are talking about people who are suffering real harm in this state."

After the bill's passage, Governor O'Malley said in a statement: "We're proud to stand with these leaders [Senator Madaleno and Delegate Luke Clippenger, who sponsored the legislation in the House], the LGBT community, and other allies to complete this major piece of unfinished business--ensuring that everyone is protected from discrimination under the law. I look forward to signing this bill."

 
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