For the first time, a bill that would make it illegal for Maryland businesses, companies and housing providers to discriminate against transgender people has the support of Senate President Thomas V. Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George's Counties), creating hope in the state's transgender community.
“The protections in this bill are long overdue,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans told Washington Blade. “We are confident the General Assembly will demonstrate, as they did in 2012, that we are a state that treats all of its citizens with dignity and equality under the law.” (Evans refers to an act to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, which was signed into law in March 2012 and upheld by voters last November.)
The bill, called the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, is sponsored by Sens. Richard Madaleno (D-Dist 39) and Jamie Raskin (D-Dist 20), both of Montgomery County, who introduced similar bills in 2009, 2011 and 2012. The last two years the measure was sent back to committee by the president of the Senate. Sources close to the legislative process have indicated that Sen. Miller is likely to support the bill this year.
After the legislature failed to vote on the bill in April 2011, Madaleno issued a strongly worded statement, alleging that the legislation suffered from ill-intentioned power plays in the Senate.
This year's bill is widely supported by senators from many counties, with 23 co-sponsors including Sens. Jennie Forehand, Rob Garagiola, Nancy King, Roger Manno and Karen Montgomery, all of Montgomery County. Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Prince George's and Washington Counties and Baltimore City legislators, are among the group, along with one Republican, Allan Kittleman of Howard County.
Sen. Raskin said he's hopeful that after last year's win for same-sex marriage advocates, transgender rights will be next.
“We’re very excited by the breadth and passion of the support we have already seen on this legislation," Raskin said in an email to Patch. "Our victory on marriage equality last year has only deepened everyone’s sense that Maryland is a state committed to equal rights for everyone, and our transgender citizens deserve nothing less than first-class citizenship.”
If passed, the bill would put gender identity in the same protected group as race, sexual orientation and gender. It would become illegal to do things such as deny service at a restaurant, not rent an apartment or refuse to hire a potential employee soley based on gender identity.
Similar laws are already in effect in Maryland's most populous jurisdictions of Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City, which represent about 47 percent of the state's population, according to MetroWeekly.