In yet another development likely to trouble the bill's supporters, Frosh said his office was "inundated" on Monday by calls from transgender activists opposed to the bill because it has been stripped of a provision banning discrimination against transgender persons in the area of public accommodations.TransMaryland wishes to commend Senator Frosh's legislative aide, David Brewster for his dedicated work in fielding the numerous calls placed to the Senators office. He is professionalism exemplified.
We additionally wish to recognize Senate President Mike Miller's decision to concentrate of securing a final budget for the State of Maryland. He stated this as a primary reason for referring the bill to the Rules Committee.
We also wish to thank Senator Rich Madaleno and his support yet again this year for a fully inclusive bill, even if he was asked by an "advocacy coalition" to not introduce such legislation prior to the start o this year's session.
I have been the lead sponsor or lead cosponsor of the Gender Identity Antidiscrimination Act for the past four years. In advance of the 2011 Session, I had a bill drafted that is identical to the bill I had introduced previously. This draft prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. However, our advocacy coalition asked me to not introduce the bill, preferring a strategy of pursuing a House bill alone. This approach has not diminished my commitment to enacting these much needed protections, and I urge the House of Delegates to pass HB 235, with an amendment that prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals regarding public accommodations.
Providing transgender individuals with basic protections against discrimination is long overdue. Although much of the media attention this legislative session has centered on marriage equality, we cannot let that debate overshadow efforts to enact these essential protections. Protection against discrimination, including gender identity discrimination, is a basic human right. Our state laws must reflect the values of equality and equal opportunity - values that are central to who we are as Americans.
Now is the time for Maryland to join thirteen other states, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, and Baltimore City in protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. In 2007, Governor O'Malley signed an executive order adding protections against discrimination to our state personnel policies. We now must pass a statewide law that protects transgender individuals from discrimination when seeking employment, housing, and public accommodations.
We will continue to withhold our support for legislation or legislative strategies which exclude input from the greater transgender and transsexual community in Maryland, while seeking workable and long term solutions to the needs of our community.
Lastly we wish to acknowledge the hard work of Delegate Pena-Melnyk. We feel she was betrayed by her advocacy partners into believing she had community "buy-in". This simply was false. The frustration was evident in her tone on our phone conversation of February 16th. She deserved better than to have been placed out to dry without a workable strategy, with all players on page and on message.
So now what?
There are two weeks left in the legislative session.
We could continue to argue over the bill and seek its resurrection from the Rules Committee. This would create more adversarial responses and conflict, sure to catch the eye of Senate President Mike Miller. He may entrench himself in the belief that such a hotly debate bill is too much for the Senate.
We could seek to openly discuss the legislative strategy used by "our advocacy coalition" as a means of finding workable solutions around such problems in the future.
Yet whatever path is taken, we the transgender and transsexual community of Maryland and our allies nationally must finish the hard work put in by volunteers in Maryland's transgender community on BOTH sides of this bill. We both want the same end game. We were not properly unified behind a community embraced plan of action for a common goal. We lacked true leadership throughout.
This leadership must be shared in the community by all voices, from all parts
The process of education must continue today and consistently until the day the Governor of our great state signs a bill which insures anti-discrimination protections based on gender identity in areas of employment, housing AND public accommodations