April 5, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Md. trans bill clears Rules Committee

A transgender non-discrimination bill in Maryland cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the Rules Committee of the State Senate voted to allow it to advance through the normal legislative process rather than die in committee.

The action by the Rules panel came after LGBT advocates and their allies waged an aggressive one-week lobbying campaign to persuade Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to reverse what the bill’s supporters said was his decision to kill the measure in committee.

Nearly all knowledgeable observers of the Maryland Legislature believe Miller controls which bills go to and are approved by the Rules Committee, which has been dubbed the “graveyard” for bills unpopular with the Senate leadership. The committee is comprised of the chairs of the Senate’s standing committees, all of whom are appointed by Miller.

“With today’s vote, the Senate Rules Committee stood up for fairness,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, the LGBT group heading efforts to pass the bill. “With the Rules Committee vote, we’re one step closer in passing vital protections for Maryland’s transgender community.”

The state’s House of Delegates approved the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act on March 25 by a vote of 86-52. Equality Maryland and other groups lobbying for the bill believe they have the votes to pass the measure in the Senate if the bill reaches that body before the legislature adjourns on April 11.

The bill calls for banning discrimination against transgender Marylanders in the areas of employment, housing and credit.

According to sources familiar with the bill, it was expected to go before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday for a hearing limited to the bill’s sponsors. The Judicial Proceedings Committee was expected to vote on the bill on Friday.

If approved by the committee, the bill was expected to come up for debate and vote on the Senate floor on Saturday, two days before the legislature’s scheduled adjournment for the year.

“We are now in the realm of the very serious possibility of passing this,” said Dana Beyer, a Montgomery County transgender activist and candidate last year for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates.

“There’s an important lesson here,” she said. You can be a marginalized community, but if you firmly and politely lobby hard, you can get your message across. Now it’s our job to continue the lobbying with the Judicial Proceedings Committee and the full Senate.”

Beyer was referring to the coordinated lobbying campaign organized by Equality Maryland that involved arranging for members and supporters to barrage Miller and other key members of the State Senate with phone calls and e-mails urging that the bill be released from the Rules Committee. Among those said to have called Miller to request that he release the bill from the Rules Committee was U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the No. 2 Democratic leader in the House.

“We are hopeful that after thousands of e-mails and hundreds of phone calls that HB 235 [the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act] will continue to advance, but we will not rest until the final minutes of this legislative session,” Meneses-Sheets said in a statement released Tuesday.

In a March 31 letter, the seven-member LGBT Caucus of the House of Delegates also sent Miller a letter urging him to release the gender identity bill from the Rules Committee.

“We believe this bill is absolutely necessary for the civil protections of a subset of Marylanders who are most vulnerable to discrimination and prejudices, the caucus members said. “We are simply asking for full consideration of this bill on behalf of those Marylanders.”

Those signing the letter were Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Anne Kaiser, Heather Mizeur, Peter Murphy, Luke Clippinger, Bonnie Cullison and Mary Washington. All seven are Democrats.

The sole openly gay member of the State Senate, Richard Madaleno, Democrat from Montgomery County, said he has also urged Miller to release the bill from the Rules Committee.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

11 Comments
  • Aside from Chris Crain editorials, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more one-sided piece of non-journalism in the Blade or any gay rag.

    ‘Equality’ Maryland has run one of the most deceptive, duplicitous campaigns imaginable and you don’t ask a single question about the disproven claims that they’ve made? The questions they’ve refused to answer? The questions that they try to ensure are never asked?

    http://endablog.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/vaccinate-other-states-against-the-spread-of-the-gay-manufactured-incremental-progress-lie-oppose-the-hb235-surge/

    http://endablog.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/the-latest-from-equality-marylands-trans-othering-scrubbing-bubbles/

  • Pretty unethical journalism that you deliberately left out dissent from the trans community that oppose this bill which leaves out PA protections

  • Donna Cartwright

    Most trans activists in Maryland support HB 235. At its House hearing on March 9, 13 transgender people, two parents of trans people and one spouse of a trans person were among 33 witnesses testifying for the bill. Only two trans people testified against it.

    • Gee Donna, and how many of them reached their conclusions based on the disinformation and deception of ‘Equality’ Maryland?

      And since your basing your claim that “most” trans activists support this anti-trans bill on numbers – the numbers of people who had the ability and means to take off work and travel to Annapolis – if more people had showed up to testify against the gay marriage bill than for it, would you similarly declare ‘game over’ because, obviously (to you), “most” people are against gay marriage?

  • Go everyone! What a concerted effort. Even pulled in Steny Hoyer. Absolutely worth the effort, for these basic rights and for a community who is in dire need. I truly hope this passes.

    • “these basic rights”

      Hey, brave Anonymous one, why not be honest and say that what you are asserting to be “these basic rights” will still leave gays and lesbians legally superior to trans people under Maryland law?

  • While you all are having this internal community discussion, here is what Ruth Jacobs is doing….. ANTI-HB 235 PEOPLE CAN YOU PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!

    Also, Kat, can you give me a cool evil villain nickname like Sandeenista?

    Gender Identity Disorder is a mental illess. HB 235 is billed as a Gender Identity Non discrimination bill but is actually a punitive “viewpoint discrimination” bill. This bill would
    Force you to lie (about gender) in order to not be considered a bigot
    Affect Workplace bathrooms, lockers and showers on the basis of “nondiscrimination.”
    Equate Gender Identity with appearance
    Promote cross-dressing on the job
    Allow cross dresser and transgender teachers for any age student including pre-school and kindergarten. (We heard of one little boy who ran home screaming after being told “details” about surgery to change gender when his teacher “transitioned”. He was worried about whether or not someone would do that to him!)

    Click here for a list of exemptions that Governor O’Malley supported when he was Mayor of Baltimore and which were included in that city’s Gender Identity law. Assuming that the legislators agree that it would be wrong “to force Marylanders to deny reality,” an infinite number of disclaimers would have to be placed in the proposed state Gender Identity Bill in order to secure the rights of individuals to simply be honest in their everyday lives.

    These disclaimers would be absolutely necessary in order to protect Maryland constituents from viewpoint discrimination imposed by their own Government and would have to include items such as “it is not discriminatory for individuals to:
    Use pronouns reflecting birth sex.”
    Suggest that life would be better for such individuals if they didn’t transition and break up their own family.”
    State that taking hormones unnecessarily is dangerous and surgery can have complications.”
    Etc. etc.”

    The bill is flawed and uncorrectable because in America no one should be allowed to force “their definition of reality” on others. And at present, because of the power of special interests, we doubt that any disclaimers (protections for you) will be allowed in the bill.

    MARYLAND CITIZENS FOR A RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT

    They are at http://notmyshower.com/

    • “Kat, can you give me a cool evil villain nickname like Sandeenista?”

      Nah…

      I’m lazy.

      I’ll stick with what Alyson Meiselman had to say about you:

      “The ‘truth’ about Ms. Brennan: she is a manipulative control freak, a bigot, and a lesbian that does not support any civil or human rights for transgendered individuals! She has never supported full equality when it comes to transgendered persons. So, why do we expect that her behavior will change? It won’t. And, those in our community that continue to allow themselves to be manipulated by her abuse deserve what they get. She can’t even stand to be in the same room as a transgendered individual”

      I would provide the link to that, but apparently the now-firmly-antithesis-of-journalism Blade doesn’t like links to ENDA Blog; apparently certain narratives shortcircuit the thought processes of the narrow-minded homo-jacking crowd.

    • If EQ MD hadn’t listed to a few overprivileged white transpeople who mistakenly believed their melanin free skin and cash flow would protect them from anti-trans discrimination, you’d have that united front to fight the bigots.

      Instead, we have a ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ situation that could have been easily rectified by amending the missing public accommodations language into this bill. EQ MD and Del Pena-Melnyk refused to do so and put those of us who oppose the bill on those grounds in an untenable situation.

      So be it, and you have no one to blame for this debacle but yourselves.

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