GENDER RIGHTS MARYLAND STATEMENT ON MARYLAND SENATE BILL SB212

Laurel, MD – January 25, 2012 – After consultations and discussion, the sponsors of the legislation decided to proceed by introducing the gender identity anti-discrimination bill in the Senate.  The bill number is SB212, lead sponsor is Senator Raskin, and the lead co-sponsors are Senators Pugh, Gladden and Madaleno.  Additional sponsors are Senators Manno, Montgomery and Pinsky.

The bill information is located here:

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/SB0212.htm

The text of the bill is located here:

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/sb/sb0212f.pdf

At this time there will be no cross-filed House bill. “Recent discussions with sponsors and leadership have led us to conclude that the best path for the gender identity anti-discrimination bill in 2012 is to introduce SB212, with lead sponsor Senator Raskin, in the Senate. Once Senate passage is secured, I will move the Senate bill through the House committees and to the floor,” said Delegate Jim Hubbard, Assistant House Majority Leader.

The definitional language was inserted by Senator Frosh, chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. It was not our choice of language, given our consultation with the community.  It is not as elegant and broad as we would like.  Still, it is adequate, and given the 11th Circuit’s decision in December 2011, the specific language is not as important as it once was. Note that the word “persistent” applies to “gender identity,” while “consistent” applies to “gender expression.”

As matters progress with the committee we will notify the community when the Senate hearing is scheduled and seek to coordinate testimony at that time.

We have Governor O’Malley’s full support for the legislation, which, by the way, is comprehensive and includes public accommodations. We did not ask the Governor to sponsor the legislation, hence it is not part of his packet.

However, once again, we do not have Senate President Miller’s support. That has been the case for five years, and remains the overwhelming roadblock. When queried about the legislation his response was, “I only have time for one gay bill this session.” While we have been working on educating him as to the difference between gay and trans, and we believe he truly does understand the difference, he has decided marriage is taking up too much time as it is.

GENDER RIGHTS MARYLAND STATEMENT ON GOVERNOR'S SPEECH AT CREATING CHANGE 2012

Laurel, MD – January 30, 2012 – Governor O’Malley this past Sunday, using his bully pulpit, called for passage of the Gender Identity Anti-discrimination bill, SB212. His remarks generated a wonderful ovation from the attendees at Creating Change 2012 in Baltimore.

As has been noted, when he enumerated the categories covered under the proposed legislation he left out “public accommodations.” Gender Rights Maryland asked him about that immediately following his speech and he informed us that it was unintentional, and that his staff had used last year’s bill as a reference inadvertently and he strongly affirmed his support for the community in working forward for comprehensive protections. He has called for such comprehensiveness since he saw the video of the attack on Chrissy Polis last April.

We should also note that, unlike marriage, the gender identity bill is a legislative bill, not the Governor’s bill. The language has been crafted by our sponsor with input from the chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where the bill will receive its first hearing, as of yet unscheduled.

Building on the Lessons of a Tragedy

On September 13th ,2011, Judge John Grason Turnbull sentenced the convicted adult attacker of Chrissy Polis to five years of jail time. This was not a cause for celebration for us at Gender Rights Maryland (GRMD), as it was a human tragedy both for Ms. Polis and her attackers. However, we feel that justice has been served in the matter and we are thankful for the professional handling of the case, both by law enforcement and the State’s Attorney, Scott D. Shellenberger. We are glad this episode is now resolved so that Ms. Polis can now begin to make progress toward recovery and the “normal life” she has expressed as her foremost desire since the attacks. However, the verdict and sentence will, and rightly should, have a lingering effect on the LGBT community as well as the rest of Maryland.

The attack was a wakeup call to the general public that remained largely unaware that transpeople regularly bear the brunt of discrimination and violence in Maryland and around the nation. It was a vivid demonstration that this discrimination is real, and can happen in any public space, in any city, suburb, or neighborhood, even yours. One merely need watch a few moments of the horrific video captured during this event. The sad reality is this kind of thing happens often; it is just that this one time we were “lucky” that it was captured for all to see and subsequently went viral on the Internet. And in this case the victim survived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, most discrimination against transpeople is unseen, undocumented, tolerated by others and most often unprosecuted. Too often we find ourselves at a candlelight vigil in response to a violent episode. And that ignores those instances where the job lost, or housing or appropriate medical treatment denied, is often found in such individuals, associated with the loss of hope and abject despair.

A recent study of transpeople by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) reported that 90% of those surveyed reported harassment, mistreatment or discrimination at work. 47% indicated they had been fired, not hired or denied a promotion as a result of being transgender or gender non-conforming. 53% reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies. And when added to existing structural racism, the numbers are even more alarming for people of color. Clearly this cannot stand in Maryland.

What is needed is the education of individuals, business owners, and our elected officials. The notion that a person who is merely “different” does not represent a threat to you must become a cultural norm. We must teach that if a person makes you uncomfortable, for any reason, the issue most assuredly is yours, not theirs. We must teach that harassment and violence against transpeople is not acceptable under any circumstance. In our nation where equality is revered, it must be visibly and regularly practiced by all, including those who represent them in elected and appointed office.

In May of this year Governor O’Malley, in response to the prosecution of this hate crime, stated that “Even with Maryland's 'hate crimes' law, it is clear that more must be done to protect the rights and dignity of transgender people.” He further added, “In the struggle for justice and equality for all, I'm committed to working with the Maryland General Assembly during the next legislative session to increase awareness and provide even greater protections for transgender people.” This call to action is the first time we have seen such a clear recognition of these issues. We applaud the Governor for this stance and we hope his vision will come to fruition in the coming session. GRMD is prepared to assist in this process as much as possible, in spite of our very limited resources.

It is unfortunate that new law alone will not remedy this situation. This is demonstrated by the recent rash of violent attacks in the District of Columbia, with the most progressive laws protecting transpeople in the nation, as well as in Baltimore City, made a protected space for transpeople by then-Mayor O’Malley in 2002. Changes in the law, while not the whole answer are a critical and fundamental starting point. Absent that starting point it is hard to make progress with the public unless our leaders set an example. This has been the case with nearly every civil rights movement in our history. We implore our legislature, our governor, and allies -- Let’s make it no longer “OK” to discriminate against transpeople in our state and demonstrate to the rest of the nation what courage and change really look like.


Transgender Community Stands With ALL Women

"I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."
"If you don’t define yourself for yourself you will be crushed into other's fantasies of you and eaten alive."
— Audre Lorde

Self-definition has always been a core concept in feminist discourse. We are who we say we are. For example, I am an out, lesbian, feminist liberation theologian-turned-attorney. According to some on the far left and right, I would not be an appropriate example of lesbian or even a woman since I am now - single, “femme,” menopausal and unable to give birth. Luckily though, I get to define who I am. There is no test to determine my member status as either woman or lesbian. But while I get to define who I am, I am not at liberty to “crush” others with my definitions of who they are.

Another core pillar of feminism has been the idea of inclusion. Feminists have fought against the patriarchy’s oppression of women and those that have been excluded from the “master’s table.” (This practice of inclusivity is foundational, if not always consistent.) Feminism is about making the tent bigger to accommodate more and more oppressed groups, hence the inclusion of the LGBT community.

At present, our transgender family (the T in LGBT) is most excluded from the table. Discrimination of and violence against our transgender friends and loved ones is still appallingly acceptable in this country and around the world. The trans community is a marginalized and vulnerable sexual minority that needs legal protections, just as women, the disabled, people of color, lesbians and gay men do. This is why a comprehensive gender identity civil rights bill has been sponsored in the Maryland General Assembly every year since 2007. A truncated bill was nearly passed in the last session. Although inadequate, it would have been a tremendous step forward. It’s unfortunate that it did not pass, but we hope that a comprehensive bill will be enacted into law next session.

Fears have come to light in the “radical feminist” and “radical right” communities that gender identity civil rights laws (like the ones in Baltimore City and Montgomery County) will harm or jeopardize women’s sex-segregated spaces and lead to assaults on non-trans (cisgender) women in these spaces.

To date, fifteen other states and over a hundred other major jurisdictions in the U.S., covering 43% of the country’s population, are covered under comprehensive laws that protect transgender individuals. Almost all of these jurisdictions utilize the language previously presented in the Maryland Gender Identity bill that we hope to pass in this next session of the legislature. These protections do not put non-trans women at risk.

The gender identity laws, of which I’ve spoken above, have been in effect since 1975. There has not been a single incident of a trans woman assaulting a non-trans woman in a sex-segregated space. Nor has there been a single incident of a man assaulting a woman in such a space claiming in court he had the right to do so because he’s transgender. This has not happened in those jurisdictions covered by gender identity laws, nor has it happened in localities without such laws. While fear of being harmed or assaulted in a sex-segregated space might be real to some non-trans women, they are generally unfounded. As recent events have demonstrated, it is far more likely that non-trans women would assault women of any classification in sex-segregated spaces! Those kinds of assaults are fairly common. Just look at the police blotters after Friday and Saturday night clubbing in Baltimore City! But to believe that a trans woman, who has suffered tremendous discrimination to become wholly herself, would harm a non-trans woman in a sex-segregated space is patently absurd.

Assaults on and abuse of women is a serious matter. This is an issue for the whole LGBT community. Men and women, lesbians and gays, straight and trans—all of us need to stand up for the safety and dignity of women. Likewise, all of us need to stand up for the safety and dignity of transgender individuals, as Governor O’Malley recently did. Irrational fears cannot and should not define our conversation about gender identity civil rights legislation. The transgender community is not a threat to non-trans women. Quite the contrary, the transgender community stands arm-in-arm with the women’s community to make inclusivity and self-definition more acceptable.

Lee Ann Hopkins, Esquire
Board Member, Gender Rights Maryland


Our Core Values

Core values are the cornerstone of Gender Rights Maryland.  Every effort and decision we make is tested against these values.  We view them as daily guides to the way we operate the organization.  The fact that they are published here demonstrates our commitment to them.


  • We choose civility

  • We strive to be culturally diverse

  • We are transparent to the public

  • We speak with one voice

  • We build coalitions, teams and alliances

  • We are honest, fair and ethical

  • We act in the interest of the residents of Maryland

 

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