ANNAPOLIS — Despite several attempts by opponents prevent its passage, a Senate bill to include gender identity in Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws passed the House of Delegates intact Thursday.
For hours, delegates debated amendment after amendment, eight in total, aimed at removing or altering the bill’s protection for transgendered Marylanders against discrimination in public accommodations — which includes restaurants, bars, movie theaters, stores and coffee shops, among other places.
Calling it the “bathroom bill,” opponents claimed the bill allows men to use womens’ restroom and threatens the safety of women and children by providing those looking to commit sexual offenses a possible loophole.
Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Dist. 37B) of Cambridge said many in the state have reached out to lawmakers about the bill, titled the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.
People, she said, are afraid. Supporters of the bill say those fears are unfounded.
Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Dist. 7) of Perry Hall read off a list of accounts of women and children who were assaulted or raped by men in restrooms in Montgomery County.
In none of those cases were those charged transgendered nor did any of the men charged attempt to claim protection under a similar anti-discrimination law in place in Montgomery County, said Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown.
Floor leader Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) of College Park repeatedly fielded questions about how the bill affected the safety of women and children in restrooms.
Each time she reiterated that the bill does not change existing law regarding sexual offenses and that those who commit crimes in bathrooms will be charged with crimes.
With an 82-57, vote the bill passes to Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) for a signature.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Luke Clippinger, Equality Maryland and the Human Rights Campaign on yet another victory for inclusion and openness in our State,” O’Malley said. “We’re proud to stand with these leaders, the LGBT community, and other allies to complete this major piece of unfinished business — ensuring that everyone is protected from discrimination under the law. I look forward to signing this bill.”