”It looks like after six long years in the desert, this is the year we’re finally going to pass it,” says Beyer.
Beyer says she’s confident that supporters of the gender-identity bill have the votes to pass the measure in the upper chamber, traditionally a more conservative body than the House of Delegates.
There’s been a nationwide cultural change regarding LGBT equality, Beyer says, recalling Vice President Joe Biden recent characterization of transgender equality as ”the civil rights issue of our time.” She also points out that courts have found transgender people are protected under the 14th Amendment, that the Department of Education has ruled that Title IX of the Education Code prohibits harassment based on gender identity, and that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that gender-identity discrimination is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
”We’re no longer begging for our rights,” says Beyer. ”The world has changed. People are no longer afraid of their shadows” when it comes to voting for laws protecting the transgender community.
”The No. 1 symbol of how things have changed is that Sen. Miller is not afraid that gender identity or the death-penalty repeal will end up on the ballot in 2014, an election year,” Beyer says.
Even if such a law faced a referendum, she reasons, it would likely be upheld as transgender rights have typically outperformed marriage equality in private polling. In addition, LGBT opponents failed, both in 2008 in Montgomery County and in 2012 in Baltimore County, to gather sufficient signatures to repeal the gender-identity nondiscrimination laws passed by their respective county councils. Those laws and others like them, Beyer notes, already provide gender-identity protections to half the state’s residents. Currently, discrimination in employment, housing and credit based on gender identity or expression is prohibited in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and Montgomery County, which together hold about 47 percent of the state’s population.
It’s that disparate impact and ”patchwork” of laws – effectively creating two classes of rights for transgender Marylanders based on where they live – that should be the impetus for state legislators to finish the job started by the counties, Beyer insists.
”Our goal is to expedite this by early February in [the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee], with a vote later,” Beyer says. ”Once they pass this, the opposition’s rage will fade away, as it always does.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: As originally written, the group Black Transmen Inc. was misidentified as Baltimore Trans Men.]