Assembly passes transgender rights bill

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Legislation barring discrimination against transgender people passed the General Assembly on Thursday, as the House of Delegates approved the bill after an impassioned debate. The vote sends the measure to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who said he will sign it.

The bill, approved by the House 82-57, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in housing and employment, in obtaining credit and in access to public accommodations. Five Maryland localities, including Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties, have similar laws. But the measure enacted Thursday provides statewide legal protection for an estimated tens of thousands of Marylanders who say they often experience harassment, discrimination and even assaults.

When the legislation is signed into law, Maryland will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia with similar statutes.

Proponents hailed passage as the culmination of more than a decade of campaigning to extend Maryland’s anti-discrimination law to cover transgender people. The campaign came after successful political battles to protect gays and lesbians and to legalize same-sex marriage.

“It is remarkable how far we’ve come in such a short period of time,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, chief sponsor of the Senate version of the bill and one of the Assembly’s openly gay members. “I think it sends [a message] that Maryland is a welcoming place for everybody. No matter who you are, you have the opportunity to live your life, to have a job, to have a place to live, to be able to go out and enjoy a meal.”

Opponents said the legislation will endanger women and children by making it easier for sexual predators to gain access to women’s restrooms or locker rooms.

“I think this really sets Marylanders back as far as our right to privacy when we go to different bathrooms,” said Del. Neil

Parrott, a Washington County Republican. “Certainly it’s very concerning for children that when an adult parent lets his child go into the bathroom, and now there could be a man or a woman in the bathroom legally.”

Parrott, who was instrumental in petitioning same-sex marriage and two other laws to referendum in 2012, said he had not decided whether to try to put this legislation on the ballot.

But Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, said she wasn’t worried, noting that voters had upheld all three laws in that referendum. She predicted Parrott and other opponents of transgender rights would face “an uphill battle” getting voters to overturn the transgender rights law.

“This is about discrimination,” Evans said. “It’s about people getting jobs and having apartments.” She said she doubted Marylanders would vote to deny anyone such rights.

Most of the lengthy, and at times heated, House debate focused on bathrooms. Delegates questioned how sexual predators could be kept out of women’s restrooms and dressing rooms if the bill becomes law. Critics proffered a string of amendments aimed at that issue, arguing that men wanting to assault women or molest children would dress up in women’s clothing or simply claim they “felt” like a woman to justify their presence if challenged

“Please make sure women and little girls are in areas free of people who will do them harm,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Republican representing Harford and Baltimore counties.

 

Written By: Tim Wheeler
continue to source article at baltimoresun.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. “I think this really sets Marylanders back as far as our right to privacy when we go to different bathrooms,” said Del. Neil

    Anyone old enough to remember the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)? it was a proposed amendment to the US constitution guaranteeing full equality to women. It never passed. Constitutional amendments require more than a majority in Congress, they need to be ratified by the states and enough resisted that the ERA never made it. One of the main arguments against that amendment was also the horror of (gasp!) unisex bathrooms. Not that it would have actually happened but that was one of the main reasons critics used. To me it’s a good metric of when someone is out of ideas that they have to reach for the unisex bathroom scare tactic.

  2. Most of the lengthy, and at times heated, House debate focused on bathrooms. Delegates questioned how sexual predators could be kept out of women’s restrooms and dressing rooms if the bill becomes law. Critics proffered a string of amendments aimed at that issue, arguing that men wanting to assault women or molest children would dress up in women’s clothing or simply claim they “felt” like a woman to justify their presence if challenged.

    “Please make sure women and little girls are in areas free of people who will do them harm,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Republican representing Harford and Baltimore counties.

    Given that for many child molesters their victims of choice are little boys, what are we doing having restrooms exclusively for male patrons where pederasts can come into contact with potential victims? The logical course of action according to the logic quoted above would be for public lavatories to be divided into: male adults only, female adults only, and children only.

    Hopefully, those individuals in Maryland’s General Assembly who objected to the provision of facilities for the transgendered will, now that this has been brought it to their attention, begin directing their efforts toward putting an end to the long-accepted yet morally questionable custom of allowing an arrangement whereby abusers can sit and just wait for victims to turn up.

    Come on, Delegate Szeliga and your likeminded colleagues, don’t the Old Line State’s adolescent and preadolescent boys deserve the protection you insist women and girls should be accorded?

    Say it with me: No to cross-generational men’s rooms! No matter how much it costs; even if it loses you your job or bankrupts the state. This is a matter of principle.

    As a famous cartoon reverend’s wife would say…

  3. If extending rights and dignity to a statistically obscure minority increases security threats to women and children, we have other problems not fixed by withholding those rights and dignities. Where are these people the rest of the year on the issue of sexual predators? Why are bathrooms considered a hotspot for… ohhhhhh… republicans are (historically) the furtive bathroom cruisers. They know all the codes and foot-taps. What I’m saying is, republicans have a whole different experience with public bathrooms.

  4. We have come a long way since an event in the UK twenty years ago at my wife’s then employer. A male colleague announced he was going to be living as a woman in preparation for his gender reassignment. Apparently after some consultation it was determined that none of the women were comfortable with someone who was essentially still a man using their facilities, likewise the men were not comfortable with a woman walking past the urinals to make use of the cubicles. The compromise was that the colleague in question was asked to make use of the disabled facilities.

    I am still not entirely sure what the appropriate outcome should have been but it probably was not to treat their colleague as an outcast. Even now I have no idea if I should refer to a pre-op trans-gender as a woman or a man. I’m sure they would like to be referred to as a woman but biologically they are indistinguishable from a man.

    I have since had a couple of trans-gender colleagues and I can honestly say that we live in more enlightened times (at least in Europe we do). However I remember one young colleague starting where I was working and he wanted to know how to treat our trans-gender colleague. So I suggested her treat her as any other female that he was not attracted to, with simple respect.

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