By MELANIE BALAKIT
ANNAPOLIS (March 27, 2014)—A bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 (SB 0212/HB 1265), will move on to a final vote in the Maryland House of Delegates as early as Thursday.
If the bill passes through the House and is signed into law, Maryland would join at least 17 other states and 140 local jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation, according to a legislative analysis. The state Senate passed the bill with a vote of 32-15 on March 4. Four Democrats, including Roy Dyson (D-St. Mary's), voted against the bill.
Similar proposals have been introduced in the Maryland legislature since 2007, but none have made it as far as the recent Senate bill. The current measure would protect transgender people from housing, public accommodation, and employment discrimination.
Opponents argued Wednesday that the wording of the bill might enable sexual predators to enter womens bathrooms.
Delegate Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore County, said she plans to propose an amendment that would remove the words public accommodation from the bill.
Szeliga said its possible that predators and pedophiles could enter womens bathrooms by claiming to identify as a woman.
This is about protecting women and children, said Szeliga. Predators and pedophiles could take advantage of this loophole.
Supporters said that removing public accommodation from the bill would gut the bill because public accommodation extends beyond just bathrooms. Examples of public spaces include restaurants and movie theaters.
Baltimore City became the first jurisdiction in Maryland in 2002 to pass legislation protecting transgender rights. Montgomery County passed similar legislation in 2007, Howard County in 2011, and most recently, Hyattsville in 2013.