Howard County Approves Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Bill

The Howard County Council has approved legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, making it the third jurisdiction in Maryland to do so.

The measure, which extends gender identity protections to county residents in the areas of housing, law enforcement, public accommodations, financing, employment and health and social services, was initiated by Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Gender Rights Maryland. It passed the council on Dec. 5 on a 4-1 vote along partisan lines, with Republican Greg Fox opposing.

“This is a very happy day here in Howard County,” Heath Goisovich, co-chair of the advocacy committee of PFLAG-Howard County, said in a statement released by PFLAG and Gender Rights Maryland. “Our County Council has shown that Howard County is willing to lead the state on civil rights issues.”

Sharon Brackett, board chair for Gender Rights Maryland, said in the statement, “Howard County will now join Montgomery County and Baltimore City as the third jurisdiction in Maryland supporting these rights. With this measure, one-third of Maryland residents are now covered by gender identity civil rights legislation. This is a clear sign of exciting and changing times in Maryland for advocates of civil rights.”

The bill will go before Howard County Executive Ken Ullman and is expected to be signed into law. The measure takes effect 61 days after receiving Ullman’s signature.

Brackett said the passage of the bill would “yield great momentum in expanding these same rights throughout the state in 2012,” referring to the hope by advocates of the measure that passing it would further the push for a similar statewide bill to be passed by Maryland’s General Assembly.

Transgender activist Dana Beyer, also of Gender Rights Maryland, hailed the bill’s passing and said she was looking forward to the fight to get a statewide gender identity non-discrimination bill passed.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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