Friday, March 22, 2013

Transgender Bill Dies in Committee

Written by  Steve Charing
Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County)

In a disappointing development to transgender equality activists and allies, the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPR) on March 14 voted 6-to-5 to kill SB 449, The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013. The bill, if passed, would have provided anti-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and expression in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The six senators supporting the bill were Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County,) Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City,) Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County. Those opposed were Senators Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County,) C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County,) Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties,) James Brochin (D-Baltimore County,) Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties). The bill had been introduced by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Sen. Raskin.

Two weeks earlier hearings were held by the committee when some 40 supporters and about 12 opponents testified. There was cautious optimism at the time that statewide protections would finally be enacted. Twenty-three senators co-sponsored the bill with 24 votes needed for passage. Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller was backing the measure for the first time. And Governor Martin O’Malley was also supporting it.

At Lobby Day last month, several legislators told Baltimore OUTloud that they were confident the bill would sail through the House of Delegates once it passed the Senate. But any concern was directed towards the JPR given its make-up with consistent opponents on the committee.

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, did not conceal her disdain for the JPR’s vote. “It is terribly disappointing that this committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” she said in a statement. “In the past month more than 300 people visited their legislators in support of this bill. Additionally, more than 400 constituents called their senators on this committee and almost 2,000 constituent letters, petitions and postcards in support of SB 449 were given to the 11 members of the committee.” Evans was especially critical of Sen. Brochin’s vote. “He had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill. Despite this, he turned his back on these voters. It’s ironic that transgender people in his own district [Baltimore County] have protections yet he wouldn’t cast a vote to extend these protections to individuals in the 20 counties that aren’t so fortunate.” Currently, transgender protections are in place in Baltimore City, Howard County, Montgomery County as well as Baltimore County. Evans vowed to continue to push for the legislation “This is not over. Equality Maryland will come back every year until transgender Marylanders are afforded the right to be free from discrimination in their jobs, homes, and places of public accommodations.”

Sharon Brackett, Board Chair of Gender Rights Maryland expressed her regrets towards the vote in a statement and went on to say, “Thanks to all who put forward supporting efforts in getting the bill as far as it went. Personally I am happy to see that our team made the best efforts we could with several recalcitrant senators. In particular I want to thank Dana Beyer, Jon Shurberg, and Darrell Carrington for their efforts.”

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