June 1, 2014 at 10:08 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Efforts to force referendum on Md. trans rights law fail

Neil Parrott, Hagerstown, Maryland House of Delegates, Republican Party, Annapolis, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) failed to collect enough signatures to prompt a referendum on Maryland’s trans rights law. (Photo public domain)

Opponents of Maryland’s transgender rights law have failed to collect enough signatures to force a November referendum on it.

State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County), who led the effort, said in an e-mail to supporters that his website, MDPetitions.com, collected 17,500 signatures. This figure is less than the third of the 55,737 signatures it needed to submit to state election officials by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.

Parrott said MDPetitions.com collected more than 6,000 signatures over the last two days, but it appears as though opponents never submitted them.

“So many people did so much and we are very grateful for your enthusiastic support,” said Parrott. “It is difficult to come this close and then fall short, and yet we know that it was only through this effort that people became aware of the effects of this bill.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, was quick to celebrate the failed referendum effort.

“We finally get to really celebrate this momentous achievement,” she said.

Evans noted in her statement that some LGBT rights advocates questioned the need to publicize Parrott’s efforts to prompt a referendum on the law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed last month. The Washington Blade received reports that signature gatherers recently confronted members of Equality Maryland and the National Center for Transgender Equality outside a Rockville movie theater.

“While some criticized our approach, we felt an obligation to the thousands of transgender Marylanders and the people who love and support them to do everything in our power to defend it, not just be quiet and wait to see what happens,” said Evans.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who introduced Senate Bill 212 — also known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act — in January also celebrated the failed referendum effort.

“While it was gratifying to see this law pass the General Assembly and to watch the governor sign it, we all knew that it was not a done deal until we saw whether opponents could muster up signatures,” said Madaleno. “I am grateful for the work that Equality Maryland and others did to help stop people from signing the petition. The time for attacking principles of basic fairness for Marylanders has passed.”

Parrott did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

O’Malley in a statement noted that Maryland voters in 2012 approved marriage rights for same-sex couples and a law that extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants when the issues were on the ballot.

“We are one Maryland — united in a belief in the dignity of every individual,” he said. “We passed marriage equality and successfully defended it at the ballot box, we passed the DREAM Act to expand opportunity to all of our neighbors and we extended protections for gender identity. Marylanders stand on the side of fairness and progress, and we will keep moving forward together.”

A Goucher Poll in March indicates 71 percent of Marylanders support the trans rights law.

Maryland will join 17 other states, D.C. and Puerto Rico that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws once the statute takes effect on Oct. 1.

“Trans persons become equal citizens in Maryland on Oct. 1, after two decades of fighting for acceptance,” said Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • Angela

    Thank you to all who fought the referendum. This has truly been an incredible couple of days for trans* people and their allies. And those who stood and fought against the referendum really made a difference. They all should feel great!

    Once again, Sharon Brackett, Dana Beyer, and their little clique at Gender Rights Maryland tried to prevent people from standing and fighting and once again the results showed how irrelevant they are. Let us hope that in the future they will cooperate as a team with other advocates so that they can play a role in getting good things done.

    And as for the Rockville theater, I am the person who led that effort. No one from the Blade has approached me about what happened. Yes, the Republican signature gatherers were nasty and they created some problems. But the significance of those incidents have been grossly exaggerated. I wish a reporter had seen what happened so it would not have been blown out of proportion.

    But neither Gender Rights Maryland nor the signature gatherers should be allowed to distract from one thing: trans* people in Maryland are having one incredibly awesome weekend!

  • Angela,

    Since you have no idea what GRMD did or did not do with respect to the bill or the referendum effort I find it remarkable that you once again have such a strong “fact based” opinion, and still you are afraid to let folks know your full name. Always good to operate in the shadows I guess.

    We (GRMD) recommended not confronting signature gatherers so as to not draw attention to their efforts. Naturally you sought to actively do the opposite. We are fortunate that it did not blow up in the mainstream media despite your “Efforts”. Our perspective was based on actual “ground” experience with these referendum folks in both Baltimore and Montgomery counties where they failed twice before. But of course by no means should past experience be an obstacle to you doing whatever you like. The only thing we did was tell folks we did not think it was a good idea. Last I checked the First Amendment is still valid. If you saw any person identified with GRMD attempting to physically block or impede your First Amendment rights please by all means cite the event. I’d be happy to disassociate them from GRMD in a heartbeat.

    And once more you make an attack on myself, my ED and my organization. One can only suppose what personal issues motivate those comments at this time. As to relevance I will let the greater LGBTQ community, and history, make that judgement not you. And being that we are so irrelevant in your mind it always astounds me the amount of effort you put in to bash us. I suppose those who can, do, and the rest complain.

    You are right about one thing, The matter is done with. And I am done with you too. Rant as you will. Sheesh.

    Sharon Brackett (my real name)
    Board Chair – Gender Rights Maryland

    • Angela

      Oh Sharon, you are so precious. I hadn’t even seen this until now!

      As you know perfectly well, Angela *is* my real name. If I really wanted to hide my identity, I’d probably use a different name, now wouldn’t I? Sheesh. This has got to be the first time anyone has ever attacked someone for trying to hide their identity by using their real name.

  • steve Karper

    Referendum fails. the effort to put a referendum in place centered in Washington County – western MD. Sorry Parrott (who only parrots cconservative churches hatred and ignorance for people who are different ( as he’s done with virtually every pro gay bill in his carreer

    The guy is pandering to the dying out breed in that area of MD which until recently had the KKK’rs marching on eg July 4th parades in Frederick MD, WA cty

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