Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stop Discrimination on Gender Identity

This year the Maryland legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw some discrimination due to gender identity.

There's been a lot of fuss about this bill.

Why?

Well, first of all, it is totally legal to discriminate against people because of their gender identity in most of the state (certain municipalities, including Baltimore City have laws which prohibit this discrimination). In other words, a person can be fired, denied employment or housing because they are transgender or because their gender doesn't conform with another person's idea of an "appropriate" gender presentation.

Which is absurd.

Several years ago, Maryland passed a law which added sexual orientation to the non discrimination law. The non discrimination law includes: housing, employment, credit and public accommodations.  Gender identity should have been included then. It wasn't. And now we're having to fight to get it added. Last year, and the year before advocates tried to add gender identity to the overall non-discrimination law and failed. The law failed because the antis launched a campaign focused primarily on the public accommodations section - particularly the part of public accommodations that addresses bathrooms.  The campaign was fear based, focusing on mythical male predators putting on dresses and raping women and children in bathrooms. For some reason, legislators found this specious argument compelling and the bill never left committee.

This year, advocates decided to try a different tact. A bill (HB 235) was introduced that would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and credit. Public accommodations were excluded from the bill. So, although this bill would add many protections, it would continue to allow discrimination in extremely critical areas - including hotels, restaurants and yes, bathrooms.

The bill is far from perfect. Discrimination in public accommodations is intolerable. But, politics is ugly. We in Maryland did not stand up for our trans community when we should have. And now we're trying to clean up the mess. Our politicians don't have the hutzpah to stand up and do what's right and pass a comprehensive bill, but it looks like we may be able to get them to pass a bill that offers some protection. And I think they should do it. If this bill passes, and I hope it will, it's only a starting point. An important starting point.

So please, take a moment and call your delegate and ask them to support HB 235. 

And yes, we'll be back for more until trans people in Maryland have the same protections as everyone else. No one should fear or experience discrimination for their religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability or disability. It's wrong. And, although I sound like a country song when I say it, it's un-American.

There are some people who do not support the bill because it doesn't include public accommodations. There are good reasons for that stance. We, as the Maryland LGBT community, have marginalized, silenced and ignored our trans community(ies) for years. All of us, regardless of gender identity deserve comprehensive protection. People are angry. I'm angry too. And I believe the analysis that we cannot get a comprehensive bill passed this year, that prohibiting some discriminations will empower our communities,  and give us stronger footing for the next bite at the apple.

Imperfect as it is, we need to pass HB 235

Click here to find your delegate's phone numbers. And please, make that call today.


3 comments:

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