HAGERSTOWN, Md.- Maryland lawmakers failed to get enough signatures for a petition to get a referendum on a transgender rights law. The petition was part of a larger effort to overturn the legislation.
A bill known as the Fairness for all Marylanders Act of 2014 was recently signed into law by Governor Martin O'Malley. It protects the rights of transgender people by banning discrimination related to public accommodation, employment and housing. Those who oppose it are calling it the "Bathroom Bill," claiming it would allow men to walk freely into a woman's bathroom and vice versa, if they simply claim they identify with a certain gender.
"You don't let men go into a women's bathroom," said Richard Hotz, who wants changes to be made to the bill. "And you don't like women go into a men's bathroom."
Republican Delegate Neil Parrott backed a petition in early May on MDpetitions.com to get the issue on the November ballot. He had to get 18,579 signatures by May 31st at midnight to get the bill to referendum, but he came up short by about 1,000 signatures.
According to petition's website, Parrott collected the most signatures in Washington County. Some residents say they are disappointed with the failed effort to overturn the law.
"Depending upon the situation, if you're at a club or a bar, that person could be intoxicated," said Mia Collins, who also wants the bathroom provision to be changed. "If you're in the bathroom by yourself, who knows what could happen."
"We have to consider our kids too," Hotz added.
There are 18 other states that have similar laws protecting transgender rights, but without the restroom provision.
"It should be tweaked so that it's clear that a man can't go into a women's restroom and a woman cant go into a men's restroom," Collins added. "It should be very clear."
Hotz and Collins say they both agree on equal rights for transgender people. However, the bill states public and private facilities such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters and sports arenas would allow transgender people to use the bathroom according to which gender they identify with. Critics say this portion is written loosely where it allows a man to walk into a women's bathroom by simply claiming he's a woman, or vice versa. This is where many believe changes need to be made.
The bill will take effect on October 1st.