March 14, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Md. Senate committee kills transgender rights bill

Lisa Gladden, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-District 41) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Maryland state Senate committee on Thursday struck down a bill that would have banned anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.

The 6-5 vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee came slightly more than two weeks after it held a hearing on Senate Bill 449 — the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 — that state Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced.

Raskin along with state Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County,) Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City,) Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) voted for SB 449. Senators Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County,) C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County,) Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties,) James Brochin (D-Baltimore County,) Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.

“Despite months of hard work by our broad coalition of supporters, key committee members were unwilling to advance the promise of equality under the law to the transgender community,” Madaleno said in an e-mail he sent to his constituents after the vote. “A majority of committee members were unwilling to pass a bill that prohibited discrimination by restaurants, theaters, hotels, shopping centers and other places of public accommodations. Their lack of understanding and empathy for their fellow Marylanders is appalling.”

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, also expressed outrage.

“Bigotry won the day, and I say that because the sponsor bent over backward to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues,” she told the Washington Blade. “None of it was good enough, nor did they then offer any solution themselves other than to strip out public accommodations protections entirely.”

“It is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans added.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, and other SB 449 opponents testified against the measure during the Feb. 26 committee hearing.

“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,” Sprigg 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.”

The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.

Governor Martin O’Malley, who signed Baltimore City’s trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor, told the Washington Blade last month he was “absolutely” reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) and other gay state lawmakers with whom the Blade spoke after the committee’s Feb. 26 hearing stressed the passage of last November’s referendum on the same-sex marriage law O’Malley signed had provided a foundation of support upon which they thought the measure could have passed.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) also backed SB 449.

“It is now 14 years since transgender protections were stripped from LGBT anti-discrimination legislation by the General Assembly,” Donna Cartwright of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality said. “It’s long past time for the legislature to take meaningful action to address the severe discrimination and disadvantage that trans people face.”

Baltimore County, of which Brochin represents portions in Annapolis, along with Montgomery and Howard Counties and Baltimore City have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.

“[Brochin] had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill,” Evans said. “Despite this, he turned his back on these voters. It ironic that transgender people in his own district [Baltimore County] have protections yet he wouldn’t cast a vote to extend these protections to individuals in the 20 counties that aren’t so fortunate.”

Sixteen states and D.C. currently ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Madaleno and other SB 449 supporters vow they will continue to fight to protect trans Marylanders from discrimination.

“This fight is not over, and together we continue undeterred on our path to full equality and freedom for all,” Madaleno said.

“Equality Maryland will come back every year until transgender Marylanders are afforded the right to be free from discrimination in their jobs, homes, and places of public accommodations,“ added Evans.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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