Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (Image credit: Office of the Governor)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is declining to put his signatures on two pieces of legislation that seek to advance LGBT rights, instead allowing them to become law without committing to either measure.
The two bills in question are one measure dealing with insurance coverage for infertility treatments for female same-sex couples by giving them parity with heterosexual couples, and another measure allowing transgender and intersex individuals to obtain new, unmarked versions of their birth certificate reflecting their correct name and gender. Hogan’s decision to allow both bills to become law without his signature means that either he did not feel significantly opposed to the bills enough to feel they needed to be overturned, or he made the calculation that both measures had enough support for the Democratic-controlled Senate and House to override his veto were he to issue one. But it also appears to indicate that Hogan does not wish to mire himself in social issues in a liberal-leaning state.
When asked whether the governor would elaborate on any concerns that affected his decision to not sign either bill, Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan’s office, said that the governor did not have any additional comment.
“Governor Hogan is opposed to all forms of discrimination,” DeLeaver-Churchill said.
Carrie Evans, the executive director of LGBT rights group Equality Maryland, said her organization was “pleased” that both bills will become law. The infertility treatment parity bill will go into effect on July 1, and the birth certificate measure will go into effect on Oct. 1.
“SB 416/HB 838 fixes a gaping hole in insurance coverage for married lesbian couples, and SB 743/HB 862 updates our laws to reflect the realities of transgender people,” Evans said in an email. “Despite having achieved major victories like marriage equality and transgender anti-discrimination, these bills underscore that we still have legislation and policy changes to pursue that seek to ensure full legal and lived equality for LGBT Marylanders.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery Co.), the chief sponsor of the Senate version of the infertility treatment parity bill, told Metro Weekly that as far as she knows, Maryland is the first state in the country to require insurance companies to provide the same type of coverage for infertility treatments for married lesbian couples as it would for married heterosexual couples with a similar plan. She said she was glad that Hogan chose to allow the bill to take effect without his signature.
“I’m delighted that the governor understood the importance of this bill,” Kagan said. “This is not just a gay rights bill, but a fiscally responsible bill.”
Kagan noted that Attorney General Brian Frosh and the major health insurance companies supported the measure, because without the legislation, both the insurance companies and the state of Maryland were vulnerable to costly litigation that would have claimed they were discriminating against non-heterosexual couples.
“If you’re paying the same premium, you should receive the same benefits,” she said.
When asked why she thought Hogan did not decide to sign her measure into law, Kagan said she could not presume to speak for the governor, though she did acknowledge that some on the right flank of Hogan’s party may not understand the bill and may be trying to pressure the governor.
“I would suspect he is trying to walk a careful line between approving commonsense legislation and his own political judgments,” she said. “But by letting this bill become law without his signature, it tells me he understood the importance of it.”
Kagan also offered to be a sounding board for legislators from other states who wish to follow Maryland’s lead on insurance parity.
“I’d be delighted to talk to legislators from any state, and would be happy to coach them in any way,” she said.
She added that her advice to those other legislators would be to stay on message, stressing that ensuring insurance parity for lesbian couples is not about approving of homosexuality or endorsing marriage equality. She said she told her fellow lawmakers that it was possible to support her bill, even if they had not voted in favor of Maryland’s marriage equality law, which was upheld by voters in 2012.
“If the law of Maryland allows gays and lesbians to marry, then they should receive equal treatment,” she said. “This is about updating our laws, about providing equal coverage for equal premiums and avoiding costly litigation.”
Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery Co.), the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the birth certificate bill, said she was also happy that Hogan was allowing her measure to become law.
“This is a very important bill for transgender individuals to have a birth certificate that reflects their correct gender without a court order, without surgery, or without a marker that it was amended,” Lee said, noting that updated identity documents are crucial to ensuring that transgender people are not subject to discrimination in employment or placed at risk of physical harm. “This follows on the heels of the 2014 nondiscrimination legislation. It’s just the right thing to do.”
While Lee said she had hoped Hogan would have signed the bill, saying such a move would have been good to show that the governor is supportive of the transgender community, she was much happier that he didn’t veto it, which she said would have been “a step back.”
“Allowing this legislation to become law sends a strong message to people that we’re leading on a number of issues, including ensuring that everyone’s rights are honored,” Lee said. “So many states are following Maryland’s lead, and that’s a good thing.”
When it takes effect on Oct. 1, Lee’s bill will make Maryland the seventh state and ninnth jurisdiction within the United States to eliminate a surgical requirement for transgender or intersex individuals seeking to have the gender on their birth certificate changed to reflect their correct gender. California, New York state, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington have already eliminated the surgical requirement, replacing it with a sworn statement by a medical practitioner attesting to the fact that the person has undergone treatment appropriate for gender dysphoria, as have New York City, which issues its own birth certificates separate from the rest of New York state, and the District of Columbia.
A similar bill has passed in Hawaii and is awaiting the governor’s signature. Another bill is still working its way through the legislature in Connecticut. The New Jersey legislature also passed a bill similar in scope to Lee’s bill, but it was vetoed in January 2014 by Gov. Chris Christie (R), who cited security concerns and a lack of “appropriate safeguards,” saying changing the standards for issuing amended birth certificates could “create opportunities for fraud, deception and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.”