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Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act Introduced in Maryland Senate

by John Riley
Thursday Jan 31, 2013

LGBT allies in the Maryland General Assembly introduced a bill Tuesday that would extend nondiscrimination protections to transgender individuals in the Free State, prohibiting the denial of employment, housing or credit based solely on a person's gender identity or expression.

The "Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013," sponsored by Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery Co.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery Co.), already has 21 additional cosponsors, according to an email from LGBT rights group Equality Maryland, putting it one vote shy of passage. Twenty-two of the chamber's 35 Democrats - most from Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties - and one Republican, Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Carroll, Howard counties) are among those supporting the legislation, according to a list from John Olderman, Madaleno's chief of staff.

Similar measures have been introduced in previous legislative cycles, but have stalled in the Senate due in large part to the opposition of Senate President V. Thomas "Mike" Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George's counties). One such nondiscrimination bill passed the House of Delegates by an 86-52 margin in 2011, but the Senate voted to recommit the bill to committee, effectively killing it.

But advocates of the bill told Metro Weekly earlier this month that they are optimistic about the bill's chance of passing, particularly now that Maryland voters upheld a law legalizing marriage equality and Miller seems amenable to bringing up the measure if supporters can prove to him they have the votes in the upper chamber.

Furthermore, since the bill's defeat in 2011, Howard County and Baltimore County have joined Montgomery County and Baltimore City in adopting measures that prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and credit based on gender identity or expression, meaning that nearly half the state lives in a jurisdiction where transgender individuals enjoy nondiscrimination protections. Now, advocates say, it's up to the state to catch up with the surge of support at the local level.

With support on the rise, there is also evidence that opposition is waning. Attempts to repeal transgender nondiscrimination laws in Montgomery County and Baltimore County have failed in recent years after opponents could not collect enough signatures to force the issue on the ballot.

This new bill will first receive a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee sometime in the next month, after which the committee is expected to approve it and send it to the floor for a vote, if Miller consents. Advocates are confident they have the requisite number of votes needed to pass it in the upper chamber. It would then go to the House, where it is expected to pass easily.

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