Transgender anti-discrimination bill approved

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The Baltimore Sun
March 26, 2011

Employers and housing groups could not discriminate against transgendered people, under a plan that won final passage today in the House of Delegates.

After a floor debate that veered into what some delegates said was offensive territory, the anti-discrimination measure passed by a vote of 86 to 52, a preliminary tally showed. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Home owners who rent rooms or apartments in their residence are exempted from the bill. Religious groups also are exempted.

Some Republicans who opposed the bill argued that education and child-related groups should have been excluded, too. Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said some parents may not want to explain to their children why a female teacher, for example, decided to dress as a man.  

"It's one thing to protect adults who want to be eccentric in front of other adults," said Del. Steven R. Schuh, an Anne Arundel County Republican, as he argued that the bill goes too far.

Del. Ariana B. Kelly, a Montgomery County Democrat, described how a female office colleague had decided to live as a man. She said her office received a memo about the change and that "it was not a big deal to anyone but (him), which is how it should be."   

Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, who sponsored the bill, had earlier removed its most controversial element, which would have required public accommodations for transgendered people. The legislation moving through the General Assembly would not prevent transgender discrimination in places such as restaurants, restrooms and hotels.

Bill supporters acknowledged a better plan would have included public accommodations, but Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat, defended it as providing "good, minimal protections."

According to the legislative analysis, 13 states and the District of Columbia have anti-discrimination laws concerning transgendered people. Baltimore and Montgomery County already have local laws similar to the House plan, although those both include public accommodations provisions. 



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