Discrimination Wins One

Groups miss deadline to challenge signatures collected against transgender rights

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg ruled Wednesday, June 11, that Equality Maryland and Lambda Legal missed the Maryland Board of Election’s deadline to challenge the first half of the 25,001 signatures collected by a group of citizens hoping to place the fate of a transgender anti-discrimination law in the hands of voters in November.

In November 2007, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a bill adding ”gender identity” as a protected category to the county’s anti-discrimination laws, protecting transgender residents from employment and housing discrimination.

Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) has been fighting the measure because, according to the group’s Web site, it will result in ”cross-dressing but biological males in your daughter’s school locker room.”

Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, says Greenberg’s ruling is ”potential grounds for an appeal,” because, he says, despite several inquiries, including ones made from Montgomery Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg’s office, the Board of Elections did not specify a deadline.

”As a voter, I have an absolute lack of confidence in the Board of Elections, which certainly is dismaying,” he says. ”I think it’s ironic that the court can expect you to have a challenge executed within a certain time frame after the Board of Elections certified the signatures, but that the Board of Elections has no responsibility to even tell you, if you call and inquire, that they have indeed certified the signatures.”

Equality Maryland is expected to return to court on Thursday, June 26.

”What the judge will be considering is evidence related to the signatures themselves,” Furmansky says, including identical signatures that are repeated on the same page, and instances where one person may have signed for others. Greenberg also ruled that the wording of the ballot question, drafted by the CRG, is sufficient.

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