Senate committee nixes transgender-equality bill -- Gazette.Net


A Senate committee voted down a broadly supported bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity on Thursday, but advocates say they’ll keep fighting.

The bill, sponsored by Montgomery County Sens. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington and Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, had 21 additional co-sponsors, including five of the remaining six senators from the county.

But the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 6-5 not to send the bill to the full chamber for consideration.

Committee Chair Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase was not an official co-sponsor, but voted in favor of the bill.

“It is inevitable that we are going to end discrimination against the transgender population,” Raskin told The Gazette Monday. “It’s just a question of when we’ll do it.”

The bill offered the same protections for gender identity that are currently given to sexual orientation, race, religion, age, sex, marital status and national origin.

“This is not over. [We] will come back every year until transgender Marylanders are afforded the right to be free from discrimination,” Carrie Evans, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Equality Maryland, said in a statement the day of the committee vote.

Evans was particularly critical of Baltimore County Sen. James Brochin (D-Dist. 42) of Towson, who voted against the bill, arguing that Brochin’s own constituents have such protections at the county level, “yet he wouldn’t cast a vote to extend these protections to transgender individuals in the 20 other counties who are less fortunate.”

Baltimore County, as well as Montgomery and Howard counties and Baltimore city, already has a gender-identity antidiscrimination law on the books.

Brochin defended his vote Monday, arguing that the bill’s definition of gender identity was too broad, and would grant protections to someone behaving like a member of the opposite sex with no requirement that such behavior be a consistent part of the person’s identity.

Brochin said he supported earlier versions of the bill that had more restrictive language, and he voted in favor of a 2011 version when it came before the committee. Every constituent to whom Brochin showed this year’s language objected to it, he said.

But the bill’s language remains virtually the same as anti-discrimination laws adopted in other jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, Raskin said, adding that he offered an amendment to remove the term “behavior” from the relevant portion of the bill, but it failed.

“The problem is that opponents have raised the issue of [public] bathrooms in an obsessive and distorted way,” he said, referring to a common argument that such laws will allow sexual predators access to women’s restrooms. But this hasn’t been a problem in jurisdictions where those measures have been adopted, Raskin said.

In fact, transgender individuals have been the victims of violent attacks around public restrooms, rather than the perpetrators, such as the highly publicized assault of a transgender woman at a Rosedale McDonald’s in 2011, Raskin said.

“I feel like we’re Charlie Brown with the football here. Every year, there’s a new objection,” Raskin said.