Baltimore County Enacts Transgender Rights Law

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Sunday April 15, 2012

Baltimore County's legislative body, the County Council, passed a gender identity anti-discrimination bill, which protects transgender people from discrimination, the the Washington Blade reported.

Those who were against the bill failed to collect enough signatures in order to start a referendum process. The Blade points out that even if opposers were able to collect enough signatures "it is highly likely that 50 percent of those signatures would have turned out to be invalid anyway."

The newspaper also said that their scare tactics fell on deaf ears and citizens stood up against opposers. In a town hall meeting one individual told opposing leaders to "stop picking on vulnerable people" as they should be more concerned about "the real needs of the country."

A few of those who opposed the bill were on the left. A few "radical lesbian separatist feminists" believed the bill would only "narrow the legislation to cover only post-operative transsexual women."

The Baltimore Sun pointed out that the County Council did not take up the thorny issue of who is permitted to use which bathroom. Rather, the council members decided to leave that up to individual establishments' discretion. The bill that passed noted that it did not include in its purview "distinctly private or personal" facilities.

In February the Washington Post reported that a transgender bill was not on Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) agenda unlike legalizing same-sex marriage. But a transgender woman's beating that made national headlines urged O'Malley to act and he said, "more must be done to protect the rights and dignity" of transgender people.

"Now we need statewide protections for the kids across Maryland who are not so lucky," Catherine Hyde of Howard County, who has an 18-year-old transgender daughter, said in her testimony to state senators.

With the passage of the Baltimore law, much of the state is now covered by such a law. The most populous of Washington's suburban counties, Montgomery County, has such a statute on the books, as does less-populated Howard County. And now, so do the state's largest city and its surrounding county.

"The degree of discrimination that transgender people suffer is exceptionally severe," said Eva Hersh, a Baltimore physician who treats transgender patients. "Many people question the right of transgender individuals to exist at all," she said.

In 2011, the House of Delegates, Maryland's lower legislature, passed a bill that would provide more protections to transgender people in the areas of housing, employment and lending but it died in the Senate.

On February 17, the Maryland House passed the Civil Marriage Act and a week later the Maryland Senate passed the same bill. On March 1, O'Malley signed the bill into law, which allows the state to recognize same-sex unions.

Last November, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed a similar legislation called the Transgender Equality RIghts Bill, which protects transgender people from discrimination in the state.