Fairness for All Marylanders Act clears crucial committee hurdle
February 20, 2014
Annapolis - Today the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee, with a 8-3 vote, passed Senate Bill 212, The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014. Voting for the bill were Senators Brian Frosh, Lisa Gladden, Jim Brochin, Jennie Forehand, Anthony Muse, Jamie Raskin, Norm Stone, and Bobby Zirkin.
The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, of which the ACLU of Maryland is a member, hailed the vote as a significant step forward for transgender rights in Maryland.
This bill updates the state's anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and credit to include transgender individuals.
Three amendments were added to the bill during Committee debate. One adds "gender identity" to existing law that exempts religious employers from complying with the law for "work connected with the carrying on by such religious corporations, association, educational institution or society of its activities." Current law allows this exemption for the categories of sexual orientation and religion; this amendment adds "gender identity" to the list.
"In its written testimony on SB 212, the Maryland Catholic Conference pointed to this as one of the reasons they opposed the bill," notes Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's Executive Director. "With this amendment, I hope they will consider supporting this bill in the House of Delegates."
The second amendment carves out an exception for facilities that presumably would include locker rooms. If a facility wanted to be exempt from complying with the law they would be required to provide equivalent private space for transgender individuals.
Jenna Fischetti, with Trans Maryland comments, "As a transgender woman, I know trans Marylanders have waited too long to be afforded critical protections in seeking and maintaining employment, finding, securing and keeping housing, and the just and proper access to the public fruits of life. The changes legislators made while in deliberation of this bill represent a small concession to unsubstantiated fears and we look forward to success on the floor of the Senate."
"It is such a relief to finally have this bill come out of the Senate Committee. With 25 Senate co-sponsors, I am looking forward to the Senate passing the bill next week" says Matt Thorn, Executive Director of the GLCCB.
"While we have work ahead of us in the House of Delegates, we will take a moment to celebrate this milestone. It is a good day for trans* people and our allies today" comments Vann Michael of Black Transmen, Inc.
The third amendment affects the definition of "gender identity." MCTE will consider the new definition and continue working with legislative champions as the bill goes through the Senate.