Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) has opposed gender identity anti-discrimination efforts in the past in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Now that the Maryland House of Delegates has voted in favor of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, House Bill 235 moves to the Senate, with its first reading completed in the Rules Committee on Friday, March 25.
Some advocates of the legislation expressed concern that the bill would not make it past that committee. And while Frosh has not released an official statement on his stance regarding the bill, supporters of Equality Maryland who lobbied for the legislation in Annapolis on Monday, March 28, say a meeting with Frosh was promising.
The included Catherine Hyde, a Maryland resident and mother of a transgender child. In an e-mail sent to Metro Weekly on Tuesday, March 29, Hyde narrates her exchange with the Senator regarding the gender identity bill:
"Senator Frosh was pulled in many directions last night, but he made time to come speak with us. His aide, David Brewster, spent over an hour with us, listening to our concerns and asking helpful questions.
I spoke from my perspective as the parent of a 17-year-old transgender girl and my concerns for her ability to find housing and a productive job, as well as my concerns for her safety.
I also clarified that as Transgender Network Coordinator for a local chapter of PFLAG, I represent 10 families of transgender children, ranging in age from three and a half to 28.
Senator Frosh was good enough to stop by for 20 minutes and asked a wealth of questions about the bill itself as well as our strategy for gaining protections for this vulnerable group of people.
I got a very good sense that he was comfortable with the bill as written, and as he left, I understood him to agree to support it. So I was very satisfied with the meeting, and I am hopeful the bill will move out of Rules and through Judicial Proceedings to have its day on the floor this year."
Owen Smith, a transgender activist who works for Equality Maryland as field organizer for gender equality issues, was also in attendance at Monday night's meeting. Smith says Frosh told the group of lobbyist that he will get the bill to a vote in the Judicial Proceedings Committee after the Rules committee, and that he will vote in favor of it.
"When we spoke with him yesterday he not only expressed that he’s willing to bring it to a vote in the [Judicial Proceedings Committee], but he also stated several times that he supports this bill. He said he has to get it through Rules Committee first. It’s kind of a little detour."
Frosh is the chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where he has opposed similar legislation. He's the vice chair of the Rules Committee. Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's), lead sponsor of the bill, excluded "public accommodations" in the list of protections in H.B. 235 in hopes that it will pass through the Senate. That move has angered some members of the LGBT community who argue that the bill is inadequate because it only provides some, not all, protections on a state level.
Smith says Frosh responded positively to that change.
"This is the most confident I’ve ever heard him speak, in saying that he would support the bill, since I’ve been involved in the past four years."
Baltimore City and Montgomery County currently provide protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity with regard to housing, employment and public accommodation in Maryland. The legislation seeks to implement protections statewide.
Frosh did not immediately reply to a request for comment.