Gender Identity Bill Put on Hold in Maryland, But Committee Vote Expected Saturday

Posted by Yusef Najafi
April 8, 2011 4:44 PM |

nancyjacobs.jpgThe Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, House Bill 235, was put on hold today in the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee by a request from Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil & Harford Counties). The committee vote has been scheduled for Saturday, April 9. 

Jacobs expressed concern on April 7, during a hearing regarding the bill, saying that her problem with the legislation, which would provide housing, credit and employment protections for transgender Marylanders, stems from her belief that a person is not the same person once they have changed gender, and as an employer she would be uncomfortable with that.

"This is not the person I hired," she said. "That is where I'm struggling."

Jacobs said, for example, she runs a day-care center and if she were to hire a woman who would then transition to a male, "it's not who I hired."

Lisa Mottet, an attorney supporting the bill who works as the Transgender Civil Rights Project Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, addressed Jacob's concern by saying that if her day-care center was designed to only hire women, and if that was something that was approved by the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, then men would be ineligible to work there and so she would be able to ask the transitioning person to retire. Mottet added that the bill does not apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

According to Equality Maryland, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director the "procedural hold" is not out of the norm, and is ordinarily introduced by opponents. 

"It's a procedural hold which happens quite often," Meneses-Sheets says.

"It's very typical, it was done by Sen. Jacobs, and Senator [Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery)] committted to bring it up for a vote tomorrow, so we're just going to keep doing exactly what we've been doing, working every second until Monday, April 11, at midnight until we get this through."

Meneses-Sheets says Jacobs asked for the hold to delay the bill, which she says is also common from opponents of legislation. Meneses-Sheets added that she is not concerned, and that Equality Maryland has seen a procedural hold in other instances in this legislative session. 

"It's very typical and it happened in each of the committee votes that we've had this year. Folks are anxious and excited and want to see this move and so we do we, but we just have to go through the process."

But local transgender activist Dana Beyer says she is "concerned" about the delay introduced today, adding that while she is not completely familiar with the legislative process she fears Frosh is giving in to slowing down the bill's movement before the end of session.

"The message it sends is that Frosh is messing with us again," Beyer says.  

The bill passed the House of Delegates with a favorable vote, 86-52, on Saturday, March 26. 

Frosh and Jacob's office did not immediately return a request for comment. If the committee votes favorably on the bill tomorrow, it will then go to the Senate chambers for a floor vote.

On April 7, Beyer told Metro Weekly that Senate President Thomas Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George's Counties) had told supporters of the measure that he would expedite the bill to a Senate vote if Equality Maryland could show him that there is support for the fill on the Senate floor. 

Both Delegate Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's Counties), the lead sponsor of the bill, and Equality Maryland have stated publicly that they have secured commitments from a majority of the senators to vote for the bill.

[Photo: Jacobs]

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