June 1, 2014 | 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 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

15 Comments
  • 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!

  • Actually, according to the Baltimore Sun, only 18,700 signatures were needed by last night. The full number were due later.

  • John R. Wilkins

    1/3 of the total is 18.579 and they only submitted 17,500 by the deadline. They were 1,200 short of what they needed based on your number. Short is short even if it was one valid signature under that required.

  • Jenna Fischetti

    John R. Wilkins Parrott only claimed to have collected 17,500. He never turned them in. Last night, the bill's sponsors in the House and Senate along with advocates who actually worked and managed this bill through the entire process were on hand in Annapolis holding watch.

  • “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.”

    You didn't come close.

  • 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
    sharon@genderrightsmaryland.org

    • 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.

  • 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

  • Re: Angela's comment "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."

    This begs the question: Exactly what platform is 'retired' Doc Beyer campaigning on in Beyer's effort to defeat the sponsor of the now-enacted bill? Will Senator 'Retired' Doc Beyer repeal the just-enacted law in order to pass a new one with the name of Senator 'Retired' Doc Beyer on it?

    I've questioned Rich Madaleno's commitment to trans rights in the past, but he came through in 2014. If there's one thing that he does NOT deserve in return it is an annoyance campaign by 'retired' Doc Beyer.

  • Alyson Meiselman

    Idiots know no bounds!

  • Jenna Fischetti

    “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."

    That's what happens when an organization has accountability to a community and has received buy-in and support on strategy.

    That's why they were able to provide the bulk of the logistical support to this effort. If it wasn't for the resources Equality Maryland was able to bring to bear, due to the immense and intimate relationships they built over the years both with legislators like lead sponsor Senator Rich Madaleno, funders, partner organizations, and constituents/members, this effort would have panned.

    They understood their relationship to fellow coalition partners and specifically, the transgender leadership on the steering committee of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality. Members like Keith Thirion, Donna Cartwright, Owen K. Smith-Wong, Vann Michael, Angela Maloney, Angelina Callahan, Rhodes Perry, and many others who, due to ongoing discrimination in employment are not public about their roles in leading the direction of action through a consensus model respecting all positions. Carrie Evans was the missing piece Equality Maryland needed to be a pillar of strength for the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality.

    I have been an outspoken critic of HRC in the past, however, the efforts of Cathryn Oakley and Sarah Warbelow on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign were constantly respectful of trans voices and their actions reflected that.

    It was an immense honor to have worked with such amazing allies. It was an honor to fulfill a promise to "Owning Our Voices", "Full Equality for the Entirety of the Community" and a "Comprehensive Bill, or No Bill". All three were the commitment of TransMaryland in January of 2011. They remain through June 2014.

  • Susan Brittain

    Thank you for your wonderful comments

  • Normally, I would not respond to an old comment like this, but I just happen to be browsing through some old articles on the Blade this evening and I saw myself named in a comment here as a member of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality (MCTE). I just want to say that, in fact, I am NOT a member of MCTE. I am a former member, but now I am, at most, a friendly outsider and sometimes a critic. All credit for this accomplishment goes to the folks who are there right now, who took the lead and guided this process through. I am flattered to be named, but in fact I do not deserve credit for this big win, nor do I desire any. I hope that people will applaud the people who really made this happen, many of whom Jenna named.

  • Jenna Fischetti

    Angela Maloney I was giving you credit for the work you did with the coalition, even if you were not a member at the time of the comment. I even included Rhodes Perry, and Owen Smith, along with Angie Callahan. ALL contributed in the team lift. And you were part of that lift…

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