April 11, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Maryland Senate kills trans rights bill

In a development that stunned LGBT advocates, the Maryland State Senate voted 27-20 on Monday to recommit the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act to committee, effectively killing the bill for the year.

The bill, which calls for banning discrimination against transgender people in the areas of employment, housing and credit, including bank loans, had been approved last month in the state’s House of Delegates by a vote of 86 to 52.

Initial head counts of senators led supporters to believe they had the votes to pass the measure in the Senate. But activists working with the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland said that, to their great disappointment, a number of Democrats backed off from earlier commitments to support the bill.

Of the 27 senators voting to send the bill back to committee, 16 were Democrats and 11 were Republicans. Democrats hold a majority in the Senate by a 35 to 12 margin.

Of the 20 voting against the motion to send the bill to committee to kill it for the year, 19 were Democrats. Just one Republican, LGBT rights supporter Allan Kittleman, voted no on the motion to send the bill back to committee.

“Of the ones that voted to recommit, there were at least seven that we felt we had that had committed to us that they were going to support this and then they back out,” said Dana Beyer, a Montgomery County transgender activist and former House of Delegates candidate who worked closely with Equality Maryland to lobby for the bill.

“It’s always a guess,” said Beyer, when asked why supporters turned against the bill. “It’s shocking because we didn’t expect this. There are a thousand ways to kill a bill. This is one way to do it, and I have to lay it at the hands of the Senate leadership.”

Among those voting to send the measure back to committee was Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties).

Miller became the target of an aggressive lobbying campaign by Equality Maryland and an informal coalition of transgender activists after he diverted the bill to the Senate Rules Committee following its approval by the House of Delegates. With the Rules Committee viewed as the graveyard for bills out of favor by the Senate leadership, activists backing the bill viewed Miller’s decision to single out the trans bill for diversion to the Rules Committee while clearing dozens of other bills for the normal route to standing committees was viewed as a clear attempt to kill the bill.

But Miller backed down amid a barrage of e-mails and phone calls to his office and to the office of other senators demanding that the bill be released to the Judicial Proceedings Committee for a vote. After a 90-minute debate, the Judicial Proceedings panel voted to approve the bill on Saturday and sent it to the Senate floor, leading supporters to believe they had a fighting chance to see it through a full Senate vote.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Equality Maryland’s executive director, said she was especially disappointed that several senators that voted to recommit the bill to committee had assured the group of their support for the measure.

“I wish I had a why,” she said when asked why supporters turned against the bill. “This means that we really need to examine our steps moving forward. But I must emphasize that we got so far this year,” she added, noting that the bill was killed in committee for the past four years without ever reaching the floor of the Senate or House.

“We are thankful to every legislator who did do the right thing,” she said. “We are so thankful to every constituent who wrote a letter and made a phone call, and especially to the transgender people of Maryland who came out and told their stories, who shared their very personal need for job and housing protections.”

“We will continue to fight every day. We will continue to analyze how we can get these important protections in place. But we are shocked and frankly appalled by this action today,” she added

The vote by the Senate came on the last day of the Maryland Legislature’s 2011 session and followed less than 10 minutes of debate. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) asked whether the bill would have an impact on private citizens seeking to choose a roommate in a private home. Muse also asked whether a ban on employment discrimination would force the Boy Scouts organization to hire a transgender person.

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), one of the lead sponsors and supporters of the bill served as floor manager for what was expected to be a lengthy Senate floor debate. Raskin told Muse the bill would not cover people in private homes looking for roommates.

Raskin said the bill would cover the Boy Scouts organization for employment purposes, but said a transgender person seeking a job with the Boy Scouts would have to meet all other requirements for the job, including appropriate dress codes. He said the Boy Scouts, like any other employer, could not refuse to hire someone solely because of their status as a transgender person.

Immediately after Muse and Raskin completed their exchange, Sen. James DeGrange (D-Anne Arundel) offered a motion to recommit the bill to committee, saying he believed many senators did not feel they were ready to cast a vote on the bill. Raskin rose to oppose the motion.

Miller then called for a recorded roll call vote on the motion. When the Senate chamber’s electronic board showed the motion had passed by a 27-20 vote, expressions of shock could be heard in the chamber, especially by supporters seated in the visitor’s gallery.

Supporters who gathered outside the state capital building following the vote noted that a motion to recommit a same-sex marriage bill to a committee of the Maryland House of Delegates led to the death of that bill this year. However, activists following that development noted that supporters of the marriage bill called for recommitting it to committee when they determined they didn’t have the votes to pass it.

They chose to send it back to committee — against the strong wishes of some LGBT activists who supported the bill — under the premise that it would improve the chances of passing the bill next year by avoiding a direct losing vote.

In the case of the transgender bill, nearly all of the bill’s supporters wanted an up or down vote and opposed sending it back to committee. Supporters noted that the vote to recommit the bill to committee most likely represents the same breakdown of “yes” and “no” votes had the bill itself come up for a vote.

Some transgender activists, including members of the group Trans Maryland, called on the Senate to defeat the bill on grounds that it lacked a provision banning discrimination based on public accommodations. Backers said they could not have gotten the bill out of committee in the House of Delegates if that provision was included in the bill.

“Equality Maryland remains committed to fighting against discrimination and injustice targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at every turn,” the group said in a statement. “Progress takes time. Today’s result was not fair or right, but we will keep up the fight to make the Free State truly free.”

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
  • ” Backers said they could not have gotten the bill out of committee in the House of Delegates if that provision was included in the bill.”

    When you aim low and shoot lower, what do you expect?

  • Shut up and go away Kat. You are sickening.

  • The Boy Scouts Didn't Hire Me

    Oddly enough I applied for a position with the Boy Scouts in their Web Development department and I am a trans person. I knew they wouldn’t hire me but I was definitely qualified to do the job. After the interview I never heard from them again. No surprise there. They were living in the past, like the 50′s I’d say. I don’t think they’d hire anyone that wasn’t extremely conservative no matter what their qualifications. I can’t wait for the day they’re required to hire trans people if they’re qualified for the job. The lies will abound. “You’re too tall” You’re too small” You’re too liberal” You’re too homo!” They can take that job and stick it!

    • I don’t think that day will ever come. Didn’t the Supreme Court give them the ok to descriminate?

      • Yes – that would be the Boy Scouts v. Dale case.

        There has been subsequent litigation regarding whether public entities can bar the Boy Scouts from public facilities based on their discriminatory policies, but the Boy Scouts’ right to discriminate is (unfortunately) settled law.

  • Alice, your ad hominem insult adds no substance to the debate.

    Kat is right. Without including language for public accommodations, there are serious safety issues that people like me face.

    The big national LGB organizations fought hard to get a feather in their caps with this bill; they showed little regard for throwing T-folks under the bus in the process, by continuing to support the bill, even after the most essential language was stripped.

    Apparently, the big orgs were really working in their own interests, rather than those of the marginalized minority they claimed to support.

    • This is based on incorrect facts. National groups were not involved in this bill and it was a legislator’s decision not to include PA.

    • Thank you Veronica. I had to look at Alice’s statement – and then mine – several times to figure out exactly what I said therein that would be “sickening” to anyone – given that it was precisely the same criticism that more than a few LGB and T people have made not only regarding the Barney-Solmonese-Obama Administration failure to make any real progress on any real issue that affects living non-militarists but also about the Obama Administrationin general for its ‘negotiation’ methodology with the Republicans on healthcare, taxes, et. al.

      Methinks that with but eight words Alice managed to doth protest too much.

  • Peter Rosenstein

    I am sorry to see this bill defeated and I consider it being recommitted to committee a defeat. Progress even if not total progress is still progress. We need to get legislatures to move on our rights. Some have complained that the bill now going through the Delaware legisature for civil unions isn’t good enough because it is not a marriage bill. I support the civil unions bill because that is what can get through now and it will provide many rights to gay and lesbian couples they now don’t have. The same could be said for the bill that just got defeated in Maryland. It would have guarenteed many rights to transgender persons they aren’t guarenteed now. It is shameful that the Maryland legislature didn’t pass this bill. I applaud Dana Beyer for all her hard work trying to get this bill passed and am sorry not more of the LGBT community in Maryland got out there fought with her.

    • “”It would have guarenteed many rights to transgender persons they aren’t guarenteed now.”

      A legitimate, trans-inclusive civil rights bill in 2001 would have also.

      “It is shameful that the Maryland legislature didn’t pass this bill.”

      No. It is shameful that there was still a need for a trans rights bill at the close of the 2001 session of the Maryland Legislature given that, even by Free State Just Us’s own propaganda of the time, half of Maryland’s gays and lesbians already had civil rights protections at the beginning of the 2001 session.

      Would all trans people in Maryland have had to wait if only 40% of gays and lesbians had then lacked coverage? 30%? 20%?

      What exactly is the acceptable exclusion ratio?

  • What a surprise, the Dems in the Maryland General Assembly betrayed us again. It should be obvious now that we need to run Pro-LGBT Democrats against these sellout Dems in the primary season and replace them with supportive Dems who will vote for Same-sex marriage and Transgender protections.

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