Equal-rights advocates in Maryland are hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, regarding Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg's upcoming ruling on the validity of 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.
''We're not assuming we're going to win in court. We certainly hope we do, but we can't rely on that,'' says Carrie Evans, who works as policy director for Equality Maryland. ''So we are absolutely preparing for defending this at the ballot box in November and helping out Basic Rights Montgomery so voters in Montgomery County can understand why repealing this law is not a good thing.''
Basic Rights Montgomery is a coalition working to preserve the county's transgender anti-discrimination policy, which resulted from the County Council's unanimous passage in November of a bill that added ''gender identity'' as a protected category to the county's anti-discrimination laws. A group of residents, Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), collected more than the 25,001 required signatures to block the law till it's subjected to voter approval in November. Basic Rights Montgomery is challenging the validity of those petition signatures, claiming that CRG used a ''smear campaign'' and ''scare tactics'' to secure them. According to CRG's Web site, www.notmyshower.net, if the law were to go into effect, women would no longer feel ''completely safe'' in bathrooms, locker rooms, public pools or malls.
Evans says it's ''unfortunate'' that the transgender citizens of Montgomery County have to suffer from lack of protections due the stereotypes and ''ignorance'' that CRG is spreading with its campaign to block the anti-discrimination measure.
''They're holding hostage a whole group of people who should have these protections. The entire County Council passed this,'' she says, ''and it's just unfortunate that we're having to use really valuable resources in defending such a basic civil right as not being fired from your job because you're transgender.''
Members of Basic Rights Montgomery and Equality Maryland defended the measure and questioned the validity of the signatures collected during a June 26 court date. ''It was a continuation of the arguments that were heard [earlier],'' Evans says, adding that there was a delay with the case because the lawyer representing BRM was dealing with a death in the family.
''We only went back to court on July 9 to deal with the issue of whether or not inactive voters will be counted,'' meaning those who do not reside in Montgomery County.
''That would affect how many signatures opponents of the ordinance will have to submit. That's what we're waiting for: a ruling on whether or not in counting the inactive and active voters, they had enough signatures. I think the judge wants to rule fairly quickly so we are expecting it within the next week.''
For more information about Equality Maryland, visit www.equalitymaryland.org.