Transgender Rights Bill Passes in MD House of Delegates

- ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland's transgender rights bill passed Thursday afternoon in the Maryland House of Delegates and is heading to the governor's desk for his signature.

A heated debate lasting for hours filled the floor of the Maryland General Assembly, but after all was said and done, the Maryland House of Delegates passed Senate Bill 212 or the "Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014" with a 82-to-57 vote.

Senator Richard Madaleno is one of the eight openly gay lawmakers in the State House and sponsored the bill.

"I think it sends the message that Maryland is in fact a welcoming, affirming place for everybody. No matter who you are, you have the opportunity to live your life, to have a job, to have a place to live, to go out and enjoy a meal. It says Maryland is an embracing place that affirms dignity and diversity for everybody," said Madaleno, (D-Montgomery County).

The bill prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations.

Delegate Luke Clippinger sponsored the bill on the House side and is also one of the state's openly-gay lawmakers.

"It raises the issue up, and it gives them extra protection because they are discriminated against. They are people who suffer great injustice so putting ourselves in their shoes, we need to do what's right," said Clippinger, (D-Baltimore City).

Opponents presented around a dozen amendments, and none of them passed. Many of these amendments centered on public accommodations because opponents say they're afraid of what could happen in restrooms.

"He may feel it, but what we see is something different, and what we would see could potentially be a naked man in a girl's locker room," said Del. Kathy Afzali, (R-Frederick County).

"That sets up terrible situations for our children where they can be sexually molested by a predator and all he has to do is say, 'Well, I was feeling like a woman then,'" said Del. Neil Parrott, (R-Washington County).

Delegate Kevin Kelly says he's worried about what the bill could mean for his daughter.

"I see this female walk in in pumps and a big Adam's apple, and I'm suspicious that that's probably a male. Either way, I'm going to be in that restroom, and I believe this has potential to make me an aggressor," said Kelly, (D-Allegany County).

Despite the objections to the bill, others say it's passage calls for celebration.

"It's remarkable how far we've come in a very short amount of time, and I have nothing but kudos for the leaders in the house of delegates, especially my openly-gay colleagues who made this victory day possible," Madaleno said.

It's a victory day that should come soon. Governor Martin O'Malley's office says he plans to sign the bill into law.

Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia who have similar transgender rights laws.

Clippinger says almost 50,000 transgender people live in Maryland.

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