Maryland could approve gender identity bill

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Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee may pass a gender identity bill in the upcoming weeks. If approved, it would prohibit discrimination in employment, credit, housing and accommodations based on gender identity and expression.

Called the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 (Senate Bill 449), the committee heard from testimonies from a few LGBT advocates and government officials such as Senator Rich Madeleno and Senator Jamie Raskin.

The bill is sponsored by Gender Rights Maryland spokesperson Dana Beyer and Equality Maryland Spokesperson Carrie Evans.

“Maryland has excluded the transgender community and it is our priority to right that wrong,” Evans told 429Magazine, as they have been working on the issue for 12 years.

“Our two priorities have been approval of marriage equality and that’s checked off the list. The second is passing laws protecting the transgender community and that is our entire focus in 2013.”

According to a 2012 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report, 92 percent of LGBT youth hear negative messages about being LGBT. More so, 63 percent of LGBT youth believe they will need to move from their current location in order to feel accepted.

“Maryland can’t afford to lose young talent because young people feel unwelcome or are unprotected by state law. Today it is time to protect the most vulnerable among us by extending civil rights protections to cover gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in his written testimony to the Committee.

“In addition to guaranteeing a level playing field in employment, Senate Bill 449 would ensure that housing opportunities and access to public accommodation are made available to all.”

The committee vote may be as early as Thursday with a vote from the full Senate next week. The Maryland House of Delegates expects to tackle the bill in the coming weeks for passage in the Senate.

Griffin continued in his testimony: “It is well-documented that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are shown less desirable properties for purchase or rent, receive less favorable customer service, or encounter outright refusal of service … Instead, this bill simply ensures that all employees get a fair chance at working hard to get ahead without discrimination or bias and that no one is singled out for arbitrary discrimination when it comes to areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations.”

Maryland has passed protection bills based on sexual orientations in 2001 and other non-discrimination bills in the past while also legalizing marriage equality and other LGBT-related issues.

“Maryland is a liberal state and we need to finish the LGBT agenda and finally cover the transgender community,” Gender Rights Maryland Spokesperson Dana Beyer, who helped sponsor the bill with Evans, told 429Magazine.

“It’s our 7th year introducing the bill in the General Assembly, and this year feels good. We have a President and Vice-President that’s strongly pro-LGBT and a Democratic Party pushing for the issue. I’m happy and excited to see the what we accomplish this year.”

429Magazine

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