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Maryland transgender rights bill receives final approval

Measure passed in House of Delegates by 82-57 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. – A bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders on Thursday received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The 82-57 vote on Senate Bill 212 – the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 – took place after lawmakers debated the measure that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January for more than two hours.

“What we are about to do today is important,” said state Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) as she referenced the exclusion of trans Marylanders in a 2001 anti-discrimination bill that only included sexual orientation. “This is an important group of people today who frankly we left out 11 years ago. They’re beat up. They’re ridiculed. They are suffering and they need to hold their head up high just like I do.”

State Del. Michael McDermott (R-Wicomico and Worcester Counties) described trans Marylanders as “confused” as he spoke against SB 212.

“We are a confused state, voting for a confused bill,” said the Eastern Shore Republican.

State Del. Anthony O’Donnell (R-St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties) introduced a proposed amendment to SB 212 that sought to ban anyone from asserting their gender identity and expression to “enter a place of public accommodation for the purpose of committing an illegal activity.” House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties) put forth a proposal that would have exempted bathrooms from the measure.

“Please protect women,” she said. “Please protect little girls.”

Lawmakers defeated both proposed amendments.

State Del. Gail Bates (R-Howard County) and McDermott introduced proposed amendments that sought to exclude “distinctly private and personal” places and “private facilities” from SB 212’s public accommodation provision.

Lawmakers rejected both proposals and others that sought to provide the public accommodation provision from the measure.

State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) and O’Donnell on Wednesday unsuccessfully sought to delay the second reading on SB 212 by a day. Szeliga sought to remove the measure’s public accommodations provisions, but she withdrew her two proposed amendments.

State Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Frederick County) recently said in a letter to her constituents that HB 1265 would “normalize abnormal behavior.” Parrott referred to the measure as the “bathroom bill” in a post to the website he runs under the banner “Do you want men going into the ladies room?” with a graphic that shows a man appearing to look at a woman in a restroom stall.

“What we could see could be a naked man in a girls locker room at a public pool,” said Afzali. “This is a bad bill. This does not protect women. This does not protect children.”

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) noted she has “never been more disappointed” during her eight years in the House as she said she has been listening to the debate over SB 212.

“We are talking about people who are suffering real harm in this state,” said the Montgomery County Democrat who is running against Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in this June’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. “We are talking about our brothers and sisters.”

The vote caps off an eight year effort to add gender identity and expression to Maryland’s anti-discrimination act.

The House in 2011 approved an anti-trans discrimination bill that did not contain protections in public accommodations. The Maryland Senate earlier this month passed a measure approved SB 212.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee on Tuesday approved a nearly identical bill to SB 212 that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to accomplish another big victory for fairness and equality in the state of Maryland,” Madaleno told reporters after the vote. “It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”

“It took eight years, and a great deal of tenacity, perseverance, patience and skill, but today the Maryland transgender community can celebrate its equality, and feel like full partners in the LGBT community,” added Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer. “Maryland joins with seventeen states, D.C. and Puerto Rico in providing comprehensive LGBT equality.”

Brown is among those who also applauded SB 212’s passage.

“Nobody should ever be forced to endure this kind of discrimination or harassment, and that’s why we’re taking this important step to protect all Marylanders,” he said.

Gansler, who submitted testimony in support of the measure, also praised lawmakers who supported it.

“Today 82 delegates voted against gender identity discrimination and for what is just and fair,” he said. “With their votes, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act can now become law, and our state can move much closer to ensuring equal protection for all. I congratulate all the legislators who worked so hard, led by Sen. Madaleno in the Senate and Del. Clippinger in the House, for the passage of this milestone legislation.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign SB 212 into law in the coming weeks.

Observers expect Parrott and others who oppose the bill will try to prompt a referendum on it once the governor signs it.

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Delaware

Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress

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Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Virginia

Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July

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(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’

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‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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