December 6, 2011 at 7:45 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Howard County passes transgender rights bill

The Howard County Council voted 4 to 1 Monday night to pass legislation that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, financing, and health and social services.

The Council’s action makes Howard the third jurisdiction in Maryland to approve a transgender non-discrimination bill. Montgomery County and Baltimore City have similar laws on the books. The Howard County measure, which is expected to take effect in 60 days, means that about one-third of the state’s residents are covered by non-discrimination protections based on gender identity and expression.

The vote on the bill was divided along partisan lines, with all four Democrats on the Council voting for the bill and the sole Republican, District 5 Council member Greg Fox, voting against it.

“This is a very happy day here in Howard County,” said Heath Goisovich, an official with Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays [PFLAG] of Howard County, one of two groups that initiated the legislation.

The other group, Gender Rights Maryland, which advocates for transgender rights throughout the state, said approval of the Howard County non-discrimination measure would boost efforts to persuade the Maryland Legislature to pass a gender identity and expression non-discrimination bill next year.

“Now, after much hard work, we have expanded protections in Howard and done so with a broad coalition of support,” said Sharon Brackett, board chair for Gender Rights Maryland. “As a resident of Howard County I could not be prouder of my Council for taking this issue on.”

The bill now goes to the desk of Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who is expected to sign it. It takes effect 61 days after the signing under the county’s legislative procedures.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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