ANNAPOLIS, Md.–A Maryland state Senate committee on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
“Many of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,” state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County,) who introduced Senate Bill 449 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 late last month with state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County,) said. He noted lawmakers in 2001 added sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression to Maryland’s anti-discrimination law. “I come before you today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 449 with my good friend from Montgomery County and ask you to fix this omission and ensure that all Marylanders, including my transgender sisters and brothers, are afforded protection under our anti-discrimination laws.”
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, agreed.
“The protections in Senate Bill 449 are needed in real people’s lives,” she said.
Former Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union and Liz Seaton of the National Center for Lesbian Rights are among the more than two dozen SB 449 proponents who testified.
“It is difficult to see your child struggle through life because they are transgender,” Millie Jean Byrd said as she spoke about her trans daughter who also testified in support of SB 449.
Caroline Temmermand said her credit card company lowered her credit limit from $5,500 to $200 after she legally changed her name.
“When you talk about transgender folks, we have families,” she said. “You discriminate against us, you discriminate against my family.”
Alex Hickcox of Hyattsville spoke about the fear he said he experiences at work because of his gender identity and expression.
“Everyone in Maryland deserves a safe work environment free from potential harassment or actual harassment and discrimination,” he said. “Everyone in this great state deserves to feel like they have a voice and they don’t have to be silent.”
Baltimore City, along with Baltimore and Howard and Montgomery Counties have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.
Sixteen states and D.C. ban anti-trans discrimination, but SB 449 opponents maintain the bill is unnecessary.
“This bill will force the state and private actors — employers, landlords and others who provide public services — to officially and legally affirm the very delusion that puts these suffering individuals at odds with reality,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said. “Not only will it not makes their lives better, but it will prevent them from getting the very help they do need to make their lives better.”
Elaine McDermott and Ruth Jacobs of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government are among those who also testified against the measure. Rev. Derek McCoy of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law Gov. Martin O’Malley signed last year, attended a portion of the hearing.
Marriage referendum provided ‘foundation of understanding’
The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.
O’Malley, who signed Baltimore City’s trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor of the Charm City, told the Washington Blade on Monday he is “absolutely” reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) also backs the proposal.
A spokesperson for state Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) told the Blade on Tuesday he “hasn’t made up his mind on the issue.” State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and Norman Stone, Jr., (D-Baltimore County) also remain undecided.
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, and other advocates remain optimistic SB 449 has enough votes in committee to send it to the full Senate. Madaleno said members of the LGBT legislative caucus “meet regularly with the whole coalition” in anticipation of the bill going to the House of Delegates.
“They’ve managed to get it passed before,” he said. “It’s a matter of laying the groundwork, keeping everyone up to date.”
State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) told the Blade on Monday she feels the passage of last November’s same-sex marriage referendum laid what she described as “a foundation for understanding” of civil rights for all Marylanders.
“You can make the case that everyone who’s different deserves all the same opportunities and rights and responsibilities of our society,” she said. “That was the case we made for marriage and we’re continuing to make it for our transgender friends.”
Madaleno and state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) were the only LGBT members of the state legislature who attended a rally in support of SB 449 at Lawyer’s Mall on Feb. 18. Gay state Del. Peter Murphy (D-Calvert County) testified in support of the measure during the hearing.
“All people are asking is each person in this state, every one in this state, all of our constituents are entitled to the same rights and privileges that everybody else has,” he said.
Advocates stress unity
Beyer said during her testimony she remains more optimistic about the bill’s chances this year, in part, because voters last November upheld the state’s same-sex marriage law. She also cited the American Psychiatric Association’s decision late last year to remove Gender Identity Disorder from its list of mental disorders as additional progress on trans rights.
“This year is different,” Beyer said. “This year the arc of the moral universe will bring justice to Maryland.”
The committee is expected to vote on whether to send SB 449 to the full Senate by next Thursday.
Meanwhile, the measure’s supporters maintain they hopeful lawmakers will support the proposal.
“Ultimately we are all united in our drive to achieve fairness for trans Marylanders,” Keith Thirion of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality told the Blade after the hearing ended. “We don’t let go of that.”
Connie O’Malley of Baltimore agreed.
“Everybody is really focused on the goal, which is to protect the vulnerable people that need the protection,” she said. “We are doing our best to focus on staying united on that goal.”