If the third time wasn't quite the charm, maybe the seventh time will be, with some of Maryland's LGBT community leaders hopeful that 2013 will be the year a gender-identity nondiscrimination bill finally passes the General Assembly. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), a longtime LGBT ally, is expected to sign such a measure – prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression in housing, employment and credit – should it pass the General Assembly.
Just two months after Marylanders voted to uphold the law granting same-sex couples access to state marriage licenses, LGBT-equality advocates now see few roadblocks stopping their progress in the General Assembly, which started its 90-day 2013 session Jan. 9.
Carrie Evans and Dana Beyer
Carrie Evans, executive director Equality Maryland, the state's primary LGBT-rights organization, says Maryland Senate President Thomas V. ''Mike'' Miller (D-Calvert, Prince George's counties) seems open to allowing the gender-identity bill, introduced in various forms since 2007, to move forward in the upper chamber.
A similar measure, HB 235, passed the House of Delegates in 2011 by an 86-52 vote before being voted back to committee by the Senate, effectively killing it.
Evans expects a hearing on the bill within 30 days, as she's hoping the measure will pass the Senate before the upper chamber begins debating other issues such as a proposed assault-weapons ban, repeal of the death penalty and budget issues.
''We don't want to get lost in the mix,'' says Evans.
Equality Maryland is also a member of the Coalition for Trans Equality. Other groups involved in this effort include Baltimore Black Pride, Black Transmen Inc., the Maryland Black Family Alliance, Gender Empowerment Maryland (GEM), Free State Maryland, CASA of Maryland, Progressive Maryland several unions.
In a Jan. 1 press release announcing the formation of the coalition, Evans, speaking on behalf of her organization, touted the ability of the coalition to share resources and collaborate with like-minded allies, something she said was successful in Maryland's marriage equality fight.
''Equality Maryland embraces doing this vital work in a coalition that has trans individuals at the center of decision making,'' Evans said in the statement. ''We witnessed the power of a coalition winning and preserving marriage equality and we are confident this model will succeed for trans equality.''
In the meantime, she says Equality Maryland also must spend coming months ensuring the new marriage-equality law is fully implemented in all areas impacted by marriage, such as insurance, tax benefits and inheritance rights. To that end, the group has established a working group that includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), several local attorneys and Lambda Legal.
Dr. Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, which has taken the lead on the gender identity bill, says she is optimistic about the bill's chances in 2013.