Friday, March 28, 2014


I, along with hundreds of other Marylanders, followed the passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act through the House of Delegates on Twitter (hashtag #FAMA14).  Stated in its most basic term, this bill updates Maryland’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people. In doing so, this bill ensures that all transgender Marylanders are free to work for a living, obtain secure housing, and get served lunch at a restaurant regardless of gender identity.

Said otherwise - Maryland is more free, more equal, and more just.

Through this campaign, I have had the privilege of meeting numerous transgender people.  Considering the trans community is estimated to make up 0.3% of the population, many of you may not have had that same privilege.  Unfortunately, our society has not been good to transgender men and women.  A February 2011 study found that transgender children (grades K-12) reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%).  In many cases, harassment was so severe that it led almost one-sixth (15%) to leave a school in K-12 settings or in higher education.  This includes harassment and abuse by teachers.

Transgender people report double the rate of unemployment and 90% indicated that they had experienced harassment, discrimination,  or other mistreatment in the workplace.  One quarter reported losing a job due to their transgender identity.

This leads to the worst statistic of all.  In that February 2011 study, 41% of all respondents indicate that they had attempted suicide (compared to 1.6% of the general population).

With a vote of 82-57, the House of Delegates took a stand against this ugly form of discrimination.  The bill has already passed the State Senate with a vote of 32-15.  These are strong majorities for a bill than has languished in committees for the past three years.  But even these votes do not reflect the overwhelming support (71%) of Marylanders for transgender protections.

The Baltimore Sun rightly took House Republicans to task for their lockstep votes against this popular measure, beginning with the admonition:

If this coming November Maryland Republicans look back at the election results and wonder what went wrong, they may want to start with Thursday's vote by the House of Delegates in which every member of their party in attendance voted against a bill to ban discrimination against transgender individuals in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The next step in the GOP playbook is clear - commence juvenile semantic tactics.  If you haven't already, you will hear this legislation referred to as the "Bathroom Bill", alluding to the fear-mongering suggestion that this law would open up our restrooms to a legion of peeping-toms.  Here's my own warning - Anyone who tries this line on you thinks you're dumb.  Transgender men and women have been using the restroom of their choosing for decades. 

But there is something more disturbing, if not epithetic, about referring to civil rights legislation with terms like "Bathroom Bill".  Let's go back in time.  Are the wordsmiths so bold as to refer to past civil rights legislation as the "public transportation bill", the "diner bill", the "public school bill", or the "Ballot Bill"?

My Republican friends don't buy this stuff.  They are embarrassed by it. These political tactics do not extend down to the voters who share that party identification.  I wish the poorest of fortune to whomever tries them in Howard County.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!