The Maryland Senate this afternoon sent the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, House Bill 235, back to the Judicial Proceedings Committee during the bill's second reading, 27-20, killing the bill in this year's legislative session. The vote happened after Sen. James DeGrange (D-Anne Arundel), who was expected to vote against the measure, asked for the bill to be recommitted to committee.
"This means that we really need to examine our steps moving forward," she said, talking to reporters after the vote. "I must emphasize that we got so far this year, and we are so thankful to every legislator that did do the right thing, and every constituent who made a phone call or wrote a letter, and especially to the transgender people of Maryland who came out and told their stories and shared their very personal need for job and housing protections."
"We will continue to fight, but we are shocked and frankly appalled by this action today. As recently as this morning we have been doing the work to secure the votes so clearly this is shocking."
In a statement issued to Metro Weekly, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said: "LGBT people need to understand that Senators Miller and Frosh are not yet pro-equality, and the Senators need to understand that we will not stop until this bill passes and transgender people can safely and securely work in Maryland like everyone else."
The development comes two days after supporters of the legislation were relieved when the bill passed favorably in the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee on April 9, with a 7-4 vote with only one amendment from Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery), which according to Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, was non-substantial.
Frosh's amendment changed the wording of the bill to take out "appearance, expression or behavior" from the list of protections, and instead added "the manifestation of that identity in gender-related appearance, characteristics and mannerisms." The amendment also stated gender identity must be "persistent" and "bona fide."
Opponents of the legislation included members of the LGBT community, including the organizations Trans Maryland and Trans United, who argued that the bill is inadequate because it provides some, not all, protections by leaving out "public accommodations," and that it would be difficult to amend the legislation later if it were to pass.
Local transgender advocate Dana Beyer said opponents should not be celebrating today's development.
"None of us were happy that public accommodations was not in this bill as it moved through the assembly, celebrating this defeat is rather silly because the message it will send is that we couldn't even accomplish this. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I hope they will join us in this fight, whether we push a comprehensive bill or not, I expect we will in the future but we have a long road ahead of us. [First] we need to find out which of our friends backed out on us."
According to Beyer, nine Senators backed out of their commitment to support H.B. 235.
"I had hoped we would get our either up or down vote," she said, talking to Metro Weekly. "This was sort of a back-handed way of giving it to us. The Senate President had promised us a vote, and this wasn't exactly the fairest way of giving it to us. We need to find out which of our supporters caved in to this maneuver to kill the bill."
[Photo: Meneses-Sheets (Photo by Todd Franson.)]