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Transgender health care bill passes in Md. House committee

Trans Health Equity Act of 2022 passed by 14-8 vote margin

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(Photo by Chad Zajdowicz by Flickr)

A bill that would require Maryland’s Medicaid program to provide coverage for gender-affirming treatment for transgender people passed in a Maryland House of Delegates committee on Friday.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee passed the Trans Health Equity Act of 2022 by a 14-8 vote margin. It will proceed to the House floor next week for consideration.

Legislators who sponsored the bill include state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), who believes that the committee vote is “a promising step in the right direction.”

“It’s been eight years since we passed legal protections outlawing discrimination against trans people in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and credit,” she said in an email statement to the Washington Blade. “We are one step closer to enhancing these basic economic civil rights with the passage of a bill that protects the public health and safety of all LGBTQ people.”

Washington also added that the bill will remove barriers within the Medicaid program to cover the full range of gender affirming treatment and procedures for low-income people. 

According to the bill’s revised fiscal and policy note, Medicaid would be required to cover individual procedures that range from less than $800 for voice therapy to more than $25,000 for facial feminization or masculinization surgeries. 

This would increase Medicaid expenditures by $52,743 for individuals who are transitioning from male to female and $52,493 for individuals who are transitioning from female to male. The bill would also increase the number of Medicaid enrollees seeking treatment to 25 people a year, according to the Maryland Department of Health. 

Prior to the vote, the Blade spoke to activists who attended a rally on Thursday in Annapolis in support of the Trans Health Equity Act. 

Trans Maryland, Annapolis Pride and Baltimore Safe Haven, among other advocacy groups, organized the rally.

“It was a beautiful expression of trans resilience and pride at a time when so many states are attacking trans rights,” said Sam Williamson, a Skadden Fellow for Homeless Persons Representation Project, which provides free legal services for low-income persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“This bill will save lives and bring Maryland Medicaid up-to-date with the leading medical standards for gender-affirming care,” they said. 

Other activists also expressed faith in the bill’s future, given its prior success in the Senate. 

“I feel good about it having passed the Senate, which is usually the more difficult chamber to get things out of,” said CP Hoffman, policy director at FreeState Justice, an organization that provides legal services and policy advocacy to trans individuals in the state. 

Hoffman is also a practicing lawyer and member of the Maryland State Bar Association. 

“Usually, I try to stay cautiously optimistic with all bills until they’ve passed every chamber,” they added. 

Optimism among advocacy groups in the state isn’t blind. 

Legal action will be imminent if Republican Gov. Larry Hogan doesn’t sign the bill into law.

“We are considering filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and bringing a federal discrimination action under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act,” said Hoffman.

FreeState Justice in the past has helped pass comprehensive non-discrimination state laws in favor of LGBTQ healthcare provisions.

In 2020, it helped overturn an archaic state law that prohibited nursing homes and hospitals from discriminating on the basis of race or national identity, but not sexuality. It also had health insurance non-discrimination rules, under the Affordable Care Act, written into state law so health insurers can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, national origin and sex, among other identity markers.

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Maryland

Montgomery County police chief discusses arrest of trans student charged with planned school shooting

County executive tells news conference student’s trans identity is irrelevant to criminal charge

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(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Marcus Jones joined other county and law enforcement officials at a news conference on Friday, April 19, to provide details of the police investigation and arrest of an 18-year-old high school student charged two days earlier with threats of mass violence based on information that he allegedly planed a mass shooting at the high school and elementary school he attended in Rockville, Md.

In charging documents and in a press released issued on April 18, Montgomery County Police identified the arrested student as “Andrea Ye, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye.”

One of the charging documents states that a friend of Ye, who police say came forward as a witness who played a crucial role in alerting authorities to Ye’s threats of a school shooting, noted that Ye told the witness that Ye identified as the transgender student he wrote about as character in a 129-page manifesto outlining plans for a school shooting. Police have said Ye told them the manifesto was a fictional story he planned to publish.  

At the news conference on Friday, Police Chief Jones and other law enforcement officials, including an FBI official and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, referred to the student as Alex Ye and Mr. Ye. None of the officials raised the issue of whether Ye identified as a transgender man, seven though one of the police documents identifies Ye as a “biological female.”

County Executive Elrich appeared to express the views of the public officials at the news conference when one of the media reporters, during a question-and-answer period, asked Elrich why he and the others who spoke at the news conferment failed to “admit that this individual was transgender.”

“Because it’s not a lead,” Elrich replied, asking if the press and law enforcement authorities should disclose that someone arrested for murder is “a white Christian male who’s heterosexual.” Elrich stated, “No, you don’t – You never publish somebody’s sexual orientation when we talk about this. Why you are focusing on this being a transgender is beyond me. It’s not a news story. It is not a crime to  be transgender.”

The reporter attempted to respond but was cut off by the press conference moderator, who called on someone else to ask the next question.

In his remarks at the press conference Chief Jones praised the so far unidentified witness who was the first to alert authorities about Ye’s manifesto appearing to make threats of a mass school shooting.

“Now, this is a situation that highlights  the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said. “I commend the collaborative efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the Rockville City Police Department, and the Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as Montgomery County Health and Human Services,” he told the gathering.

“Thanks to their swift action and cooperation a potentially catastrophic event was prevented,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that during the current school year, police have received reports of 140 threats to the public schools in Montgomery County. He said after a thorough investigation, none of them rose to the level where an arrest was made. Instead, police and school officials took steps to arrange for the student making the threats and their parents to take remedial action, including providing  mental health services.

“But this case is different,” Jones said. “This case is entirely different that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by rereporting the suspect’s manifesto to the authorities. This underscores the value of community engagement and the ‘see something say something’ approach,” he said.

Jones mentioned at the press conference that Ye was  being held without bond since the time of his arrest but was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Friday shortly after the press conference took place to determine whether he should be released while awaiting trial or continue to be held.

In his manifesto obtained by police, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous.

In charging documents reported on by WJLA 7 and WBAL 11, the 129-page document, which Ye has referred to as a book of fiction, included writings that said, in part:

“I want to shoot up a school. I’ve been preparing for months. The gun is an AR-15. This gun is going to change lives tomorrow … As I walk through the hallways, I cherry pick the classrooms that are the easiest targets. I need to figure out how to sneak the gun in. I have contemplated making bombs. The instructions to make them are surprisingly available online. I have also considered shooting up my former elementary school because little kids make easier targets. High school’s the best target; I’m the most familiar with the layout. I pace around my room like an evil mastermind. I’ve put so much effort into this. My ultimate goal would be to set the world record for the most amount of kills in a shooting. If I have time, I’ll try to decapitate my victims with a knife to turn the injuries into deaths.”

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Maryland

Rockville teen charged with plotting school shooting after FBI finds ‘manifesto’

Alex Ye charged with threats of mass violence

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Alex Ye (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Police Department)

BY BRETT BARROUQUERE | A Montgomery County high school student is charged with what police describe as plans to commit a school shooting.

Andrea Ye, 18, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye, is charged with threats of mass violence. Montgomery County Police and the FBI arrested Ye Wednesday.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Maryland

Md. lawmakers pass several LGBTQ rights bills during 2024 session

Senate committee failed to vote on HIV decriminalization bill

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland lawmakers passed a number of LGBTQ rights bills during this year’s legislative session that ended on Monday.

House Bill 1397, which would strengthened the state’s nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, passed on Monday. 

The Freedom to Read Act, which, among other things, would “protect local library personnel from dismissal or disciplinary action for doing their jobs, in accordance with prescribed standards,” passed in the Maryland Senate on April 5. 

The state Senate on April 4 passed House Bill 602, which would bolster Maryland’s employment discrimination law. The Maryland House of Delegates on the same day approved a measure that would make Maryland a sanctuary state for transgender people and their health care providers.

FreeState Justice Policy Advocate and Legal Impact Coordinator Camila Reynolds-Dominguez in a statement notes lawmakers also “affirmed Maryland’s commitment to the federal Equal Rights Amendment” and “created much needed oversight for Maryland’s prison system.” 

She noted lawmakers “defeated a myriad of anti-trans bills and harmful amendments” during this year’s legislative session. Reynolds-Dominguez also criticized the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee over its failure to vote on a bill that would repeal the criminalization of people with HIV.

“This legislative session was monumental for LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” she said. “While we are extremely disappointed that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee did not bring an HIV criminalization repeal law to a vote for the second year in a row, there is much else to celebrate.”

“It is too apparent from the harmful comments and misinformation we heard during legislative debates that there is still so much work that must be done to change certain legislators’ anti-LGBTQIA+ biases,” added Reynolds-Dominguez. “Nonetheless, we’re also celebrating the overwhelming majority of our elected officials who are wonderful and supportive allies in the fight to make Maryland an inclusive state where everyone has dignity and equal rights no matter who they are or who they love. We would like to thank all the advocates, allies and activists who helped us achieve so many victories this session — none of this would be possible without dozens of people’s hard work, tireless effort and unwavering dedication.”

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