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Md. House committee approves trans bill

Weekend vote expected in full House of Delegates

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A bill that would ban employment and housing discrimination against transgender people in Maryland cleared a second crucial hurdle Friday when a committee of the state’s House of Delegates approved the bill by a vote of 15-8.

The bill now goes to the full House of Delegates, where it must be approved by midnight on Monday to make it eligible to be sent to the State Senate for final approval.

“The great news is we thought the vote would be 14-9 since we had 14 commitments,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT group leading efforts on behalf of the bill. “So we actually picked up another supporter.”

The 23-member Committee on Health and Government Operations voted mostly along party lines in approving the bill. Fourteen of the committee’s 15 Democrats voted for the measure. Seven of the eight Republicans on the committee voted no. The sole Republican voting for it was Del. Robert Costa of Anne Arundel County. The lone Democrat voting “no” was John Donaghoue of Washington County.

Among those voting “yes” were gay Dels. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) and Peter Murphy (D-Charles County).

The committee’s action represents the first time a transgender rights bill in Maryland has been reported out of committee for a vote in the state’s House or Senate.

“It looks good on the floor [of the full House],” Meneses-Sheets said. “We have a strong whip count. We need to keep up the work every second until the vote is taken.”

With dozens of bills competing for a vote as the House scrambles to complete its business by the end of the day Monday, activists supporting the transgender rights measure, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, say the next key hurdle was to make sure lawmakers bring it up for a vote.

The bill calls for amending the state’s anti-discrimination laws by adding protection on the basis of gender identity to the area of employment, housing, and credit.

In a statement released on Friday, Equality Maryland said it considers “a few non-substantive amendments” to the bill approved by a subcommittee earlier this week to be “relatively inconsequential.”

The statement said one of the amendments modified the bill’s definition of gender identity.

“This definition will provide protection both for a person’s gender identity as well as the way in which they express their gender in terms of presentation,” the statement says. “Equality Maryland worked with the subcommittee and committee to ensure that both areas would be covered under the bill’s definition.”

According to Meneses-Sheets, supporters of the bill in the State Senate, including gay Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) were committed to take immediate steps to shepherd the bill through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the Senate floor if it clears a vote by the House this weekend.

Some transgender activists, including members of the group Trans Maryland, oppose the bill on grounds that it doesn’t include protection in the category of public accommodations. The bill’s author and lead sponsor in the House, Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties), said she removed a public accommodations provision after determining it was the only way to obtain enough votes to pass the measure this year.

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Virginia

Va. House committee advances two anti-transgender bills

Democrats in state Senate will likely kill measures

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House Education Committee on Friday approved two anti-transgender bills.

Committee members advanced state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach)’s House Bill 1387, which would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, and state Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County)’s House Bill 2432, which would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

A House subcommittee earlier this week approved the two bills.

Republicans control the House of Delegates by a 51-47 margin. Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the Virginia Senate.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-trans bills. It is likely HB 1387 and HB 2432 will meet the same fate once they reach the state Senate.

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Comings & Goings

Swaruup takes role as executive director of DC Legal Aid

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Vikram Swaruup

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

The Comings and Goings column also invites LGBTQ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, landed an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Vikram Swaruup on his new position as executive director of DC Legal Aid. Upon accepting the position Swaruup said,“Legal Aid is one of the most important institutions working to make sure all District residents are treated fairly in our legal system, and I could not be more grateful to the board for this tremendous honor. I’m excited to be joining a top-notch team that is on the front lines of fighting for District residents.” 

Swaruup has been working in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, as Chief Deputy Attorney General. He served as second-highest ranking officer and thought partner to the attorney general in management of all legal work of the office, including the District’s affirmative, defensive, and appellate litigation, as well as legal advice provided to District agencies and the legislature. He began working there in the Civil Rights Section, as Assistant Attorney General. He litigated civil rights cases, including investigating pre-suit, drafting complaints, engaging in discovery and motions practice, and developing recommendations for amicus participation. 

Prior to that he served in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appellate Section, Washington, D.C., as a senior attorney. Before going to the DOJ, he served as a law clerk for Judge Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose, Calif. He was a summer associate with Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, Oakland, Calif. He was a Holley Law Fellow with the the National LGBTQ Task Force in D.C., and a Pride Law Fund Fellow with the Transgender Law Center, San Francisco. 

Vikram earned a bachelor’s of journalism, with high honors, University of Texas, Austin; and a Juris Doctor, University of California, School of Law, Berkeley, Calif. During his college years he participated in many activities including: California Law Review (Senior Articles Editor); Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice (Executive Editor); Faculty Appointments Committee (student co-chair); Queer Caucus (outreach chair); and South Asian Law Student Association. 

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council to honor drag performer Ba’Naka

Memorial resolution expected to pass unanimously on Feb. 7

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Drag performer Dustin Michael Schaad (Ba’Naka) died Jan. 11. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

All 13 members of the D.C. City Council have signed on as co-introducers of a ceremonial resolution honoring the life of the late D.C. drag performer Dustin Michael Schaad, who performed at many of the city’s gay bars and LGBTQ events under the name Ba’Naka.

The resolution, introduced by D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), was expected to be approved unanimously at the Council’s Feb. 7 legislative session.

“The Council of the District of Columbia honors Dustin Schaad’s memory, recognizes and celebrates their legacy of love, unity, and compassion for all those who knew him, and expresses sincere condolences to Dustin’s family and loved ones,” the resolution states.

The resolution notes that Schaad, 36, moved to D.C. shortly after graduating high school in his hometown of Bradenton, Fla., and not too long after that “began performing as Ba’Naka at drag shows around the city, eventually becoming one of the most recognizable people in the District’s drag community.”

Schaad died Jan. 11 at George Washington University Hospital from complications associated with a longstanding illness, according to friends.

David Perruzza, owner of the D.C. gay bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, said Schaad had been performing most recently at Pitchers while overseeing a popular drag bingo event at the Adams Morgan bar. Perruzza said Schaad talked about having performed in drag since the age of 18.

“[T]hrough their vibrant personality and outgoing nature, Ba’Naka raised awareness around issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community,” the Council resolution says, adding, “Ba’Naka became a beloved regular at gay bars and clubs around the District, lifting the spirit of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, that this resolution may be cited as the ‘Dustin Michael Schaad Memorial Recognition Resolution of 2023,’” the resolution states.

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