Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday is scheduled to sign into a law a bill that will ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders.
“It’s long overdue,” he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during a telephone interview from Annapolis. “Discrimination against people is wrong. This is a good bill and it’s about time we prohibit discrimination against transgendered individuals in Maryland.”
Senate Bill 212 — or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 — that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced earlier this year received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates in March. The state will join 17 others along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that include gender identity and expression in anti-discrimination laws.
O’Malley noted to the Blade he signed the state’s first trans rights ordinance in 2002 when he was mayor of Baltimore. The governor subsequently testified in support of statewide proposals that had gone before Annapolis lawmakers.
“We did not experience any problems with the implementation of the bill in Baltimore,” said O’Malley in response to a question about why it took more than a decade for legislators to approve a statewide trans rights measure. “Perhaps this bill took longer given the saliency of the marriage equality fight and how many tries it took us to get that done.”
State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) and other SB 212 opponents repeatedly described it as a “bathroom bill” and said it would place women and children in danger while using restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities.
“It was a lot of irresponsible, false rhetoric that was designed simply to inflame people,” said O’Malley.
Parrott last month announced he plans to collect signatures to prompt a referendum on the bill.
The Washington County Republican needs to collect a third of the 55,737 necessary signatures to prompt a referendum on SB 212 by May 31. The remainder of them are due to state election officials by June 30 in order for the measure to appear on the November ballot.
O’Malley told the Blade that opponents of bills extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that he signed in 2012 also collected enough signatures to place them on the ballot. He noted voters subsequently approved both measures.
“Whatever success they might have in initially working up the gullible and petitioning this to referendum I believe the people of our state will agree that to discriminate against another human being is wrong,” said O’Malley.
‘No thoughts’ on 2016
SB 212 is only the latest in a series of progressive measures that O’Malley has signed into law in recent months.
The governor last week signed a bill that will raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. O’Malley in April signed a measure that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The death penalty in Maryland was repealed last May.
“When you have the opportunity to serve as an elected executive, you work hard everyday in the hopes that by the time your time is over you can make your state a better place, a stronger place, a more open and inclusive place that you can accomplish meaningful things that bring people together rather than to drive them apart,” O’Malley told the Blade. “That’s what we’ve been able to do in the eight years of this O’Malley-Brown administration.”
O’Malley spoke with the Blade hours after Politico published a story about his possible 2016 presidential aspirations against growing speculation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce a second White House bid.
He said he had “no thoughts today” on whether he plans to run for president.
O’Malley has endorsed Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in his campaign against Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) in next month’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.