By John Riley
March 4, 2014
The Maryland Senate passed a bill Tuesday morning that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations based on a person’s gender identity or expression, capping off an eight-year-long legislative fight to get such a measure passed in the upper chamber.
The bill, SB 212, passed the Senate on a mostly party-line vote of 32-15, the largest margin ever for an LGBT-rights bill in Maryland. It previously passed out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, long considered the biggest hurdle to passage, by an 8-3 vote. The bill extends protections for transgender individuals that already exist in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties – omprising about half the state’s population – to the state’s remaining 20 counties.
Opponents of the bill had previously tried to derail it by raising the specter of several “horror” scenarios, often focusing on whether transgender people would be able to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. But two amendments, offered by Sens. Christopher Shank (R-Washington Co.) and Joseph Getty (R-Carroll, Baltimore counties), sought to resolve the issue by defining gender identity more specifically. In Getty’s amendment, which was adopted by the full body, a person’s gender identity may be demonstrated by “consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity, or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.”
The bill was largely shepherded both through the Judicial Proceedings Committee and on the floor by the Democratic floor leader, Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery Co.), who, as he did with the marriage-equality bill during the state’s 2011 and 2012 seasons, defended the bill against detractors’ attempts to scuttle protections or use procedural maneuvers to force it back into committee. The bill now heads to the House of Delegates. If passed there, it will head to the desk of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is a supporter of the bill.