MD Gains Trans Protections; Foes Vow Ballot Repeal Attempt
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Thursday, May 15 signed into law a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in the areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodations, extending vital civil rights protections to transgender Marylanders.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act, also known as SB 212, previously passed the Maryland Senate in March by a 32-15 vote, and passed the House of Delegates, 82-57, later that month. Because similar protections already exist in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and the city of Hyattsville, which together comprise about half of the state’s population, the bill, as signed into law, simply extends protections to transgender people living in the state’s 20 remaining counties. As written, the bill is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1.
In statements on his office’s website, O’Malley grouped the transgender rights bill in with other bills related to the budget and protecting the state’s wetlands, saying that all those efforts "will ensure that we continue to make critical progress toward a better shared future for our state," and that the transgender bill, in particular, recognizes the human dignity of all Marylanders. In 2002, as the mayor of Baltimore City, O’Malley signed similar legislation into effect to make the city the first jurisdiction to protect transgender individuals from discrimination.
"Today, with the signing of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, we’re taking a critical step forward in protecting all Marylanders from discrimination," Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said in a statement. "This is important legislation at a time when more than half of transgender residents in our state have reported harassment in their community. I’d like to thank and congratulate all of the lawmakers, advocates, and community leaders who made this legislation possible, and fought to ensure that all Marylanders are treated and protected equally under the law."
Various advocates for transgender rights praised the signing of the bill into law, including representatives from Gender Rights Maryland and from the Maryland Coalition for Transgender Equality (MCTE), a collection of more than 50 civic, political, religious or community groups that advocated on behalf of SB 212’s legislative passage.
"I applaud the Governor for his completing the process by which the transgender community has risen to full legal equality in the state of Maryland," Dana Beyer, the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, said in a statement. "He started this process in 2002 by making Baltimore City the first protected jurisdiction; now, following the addition of Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties, Governor O’Malley gets to close the circle for all residents of our state."
"We are proud to have worked with the O’Malley-Brown Administration on passing The Fairness for All Marylanders Act," Carrie Evans, executive director of MCTE member Equality Maryland, said in a statement. "We especially want to thank the Lt. Governor for testifying before the House Committee this session, and the Governor for addressing our rally. Their efforts were effective and helped continue the momentum for passing this bill."
Equality Maryland’s political action committee, Equality Maryland PAC, previously endorsed Brown in his bid for governor over Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) and out lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.), both of whom supported the law, and, in Mizeur’s case, also testified in favor of it before the General Assembly. Equality Maryland PAC also endorsed Sen. Rich Madaleno, the chief Senate sponsor of SB 212, in his bid for re-election. He faces off against Beyer in the June primary.