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Maryland Senate approves transgender rights bill

Measure passed by 32-15 vote margin

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Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state. Sen. Rich Madaleno introduced Senate Bill 212 (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.–The Maryland Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the state.

The measure passed by a 32-15 vote margin after senators debated on its third reading for less than 20 minutes.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) voted for Senate Bill 212 – the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 – alongside state Sens. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s County), James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City), Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s County), Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery County), Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County), Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City), Verna Jones-Rodwell (D-Baltimore City), Edward Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties), Delores Kelly (D-Baltimore County), Nancy King (D-Montgomery County), Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County), Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County), Nathaniel McFadden (D-Baltimore City), Thomas Middleton (D-Charles County), Karen Montgomery (D-Montgomery County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County), Douglas Peters (D-Prince George’s County), Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County), Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore City), Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s County), Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), James Robey (D-Howard County), James Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties), Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), Ronald Young (D-Frederick and Washington Counties) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).

Kittleman, who is the only Republican who voted for the measure, said he hopes “people realize this is a fairness issue.”

“It is not our job to discriminate,” added Kelly before the vote. “The bill is carefully crafted. The definitions are clear”

State Sens. John Astle (D-Anne Arundel County), David Brinkley (R-Carroll and Frederick Counties), Richard Colburn (R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico Counties), James DeGrange, Sr., (D-Anne Arundel County), Roy Dyson (D-Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties), George Edwards (R-Alleghany, Garrett and Washington Counties), Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties), Barry Glassman (R-Harford County), Stephen Hershey, Jr. (R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties), Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties), James Mathias, Jr., (D-Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties), Edward Reilly (R-Anne Arundel County), Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County) voted against SB 212.

Simonaire before the vote questioned the measure’s definitions of public accommodations and gender identity. The Anne Arundel County Republican also sought additional religious protections in SB 212 that Raskin maintained already exist.

“The intent of this bill is discrimination,” said Simonaire. “There is an absence of religion.”

“Huge day for transgender rights in Maryland”

Madaleno, who introduced SB 212, applauded its passage.

“Today marks a historic milestone in the continued fight to advance equal rights for all Marylanders,” he said in a statement. “The Senate’s passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act sends a reaffirming message throughout our state that regardless of whom you are, prejudice and discrimination will no longer be tolerated or exempted from law. With these new anti-discrimination protections for transgender persons one step closer to full passage.”

“Today is a huge day for transgender rights in Maryland,” added Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans. “With their vote, 32 Senators stood up to say no one should be denied the opportunity to work for a living, secure housing or eat lunch at a restaurant just because of their gender identity.”

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced her candidacy against Madaleno in January, specifically applauded her opponent in a statement after senators approved the measure. She also praised Frosh, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, former Equality Maryland Executive Director Dan Furmansky and “the trans community who came every year to Annapolis to lobby and tell their stories.”

“After eight years of struggle, and with the active support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., and the legislative magic of Sen. Jamie Raskin, a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill has passed in the Senate,” said Beyer.

Frosh described Madaleno as “the best leader for gender equality and LGBT rights in the country” as he discussed the measure’s passage with the Washington Blade after the vote.

“It was the forceful but quiet leadership of Jamie and Rich,” said Frosh. “The fact it came up and got almost no debate was remarkable. The fact it got 32 votes was astonishing.”

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow, Vann Michael of Black Transmen, Inc., and Free State Legal Project Executive Director Aaron Merki are among those who also applauded SB 212’s passage.

“As a transgender woman, I know that this is one huge step forward for transgender people who only want to fully participate in public life, without fear of discrimination based on gender identity,” said Jenna Fischetti of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality. “Today the Maryland Senate said loud and clear that every Marylander deserves equal rights.”

SB 212 last month cleared a major hurdle when the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved the measure by a 8-3 vote margin.

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties currently include gender identity and expression in their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville in December became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to hold a hearing on a trans rights bill that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced. The chamber approved a similar measure in 2011.

All three Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) – support SB 212.

“Today 32 Senators voted against gender discrimination and for what is just and fair,” Gansler told the Blade in a statement. “I congratulate all who worked so hard, led by Senator Madaleno, for the passage of this milestone legislation.”

“Today, the Senate took a huge step forward in our path to equality under the law for all Marylanders,” added Mizeur, who testified in support of SB 212 last month before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “No one in our state should face discrimination, period. Now let’s get it done in the House.”

Brown on Wednesday is expected to testify in support of Clippinger’s bill on behalf of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

“He sees this legislation as a critical step forward towards making sure that every Marylander no matter who they are, where they are, what their background is is treated fairly,” Brown’s spokesperson, Matt Verghese, told the Blade.

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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