Transgender protections bill fails to pass Maryland senate committee
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A bill that would have prohibited discrimination against transgender Marylanders in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations, failed on Thursday to pass a committee vote.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, (SB 449) failed by a vote of 5-6 in the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee.
The committee heard testimony on the bill earlier this month from over 40 proponents and about a dozen opponents.
The bill would have added “gender identity” to the law that currently prohibits discrimination base on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, and sexual orientation. Had it passed, the act would have made Maryland the 17th state to provide comprehensive gender identity protections.
“It is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” said Carrie Evans, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, in an email to LGBTQ Nation on Thursday.
“In the past month more than 300 people visited their legislators in support of this bill. Additionally, more than 400 constituents called their senators on this committee and almost 2,000 constituent letters, petitions and postcards in support of SB 449 were given to the 11 members of the committee,” wrote Evans.
“We are particularly incensed with Senator Jim Brochin’s vote. He had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill. Despite this, he turned his back on these voters. It ironic that transgender people in his own district (Baltimore County) have protections, yet he wouldn’t cast a vote to extend these protections to individuals in the 20 counties that aren’t so fortunate,” Evans added.
Last month, Senator Richard Madaleno, a co-sponsor of the measure, said, “We are on the verge of this last big victory in Maryland.”
“This legislation came before the Maryland General Assembly 2 years ago, passed the House of Delegates, and went to the Senate floor in the final hours of the Session and did not survive. I am very confident we have the votes in the Senate, if we could just get the bill to the floor,” Madaleno stated.
Evans said the fight “is not over.”
“Equality Maryland will come back every year until transgender Marylanders are afforded the right to be free from discrimination in their jobs, homes, and places of public accommodations,” she said.
Will and Dan Neville-Rehbehn are baking up a storm to pay for surrogacy
By Emily Wax, Published: February 8
First comes love.
Then comes marriage.
Then comes an online bake sale to pay for an egg donor, a surrogate and in vitro fertilization.
In the kitchen of their snug, rented loft off U Street, Will and Dan Neville-Rehbehn, a married gay couple, are “baking for babies,” as their Web site calls their efforts to raise the money they need to start a family .
Tonight, they’re baking a Margarita Layer Cake that will sell for $70.
“I need 12 cups of powered sugar!” Will, 30, calls out to Dan, 29, who is watching their red KitchenAid mixer whip tequila-lime buttercream frosting on high.
“Got it,” responds Dan, double-checking the recipe on the couple’s iPad.
The multilayered vanilla cake also calls for “margarita liquid cheesecake” — a filling made with agave-based 1800 Tequila Reserva Silver — and “roasted corn tortilla-chip crunch,” which are alternated in an 11-step assembly process.
Most of Will’s recipes are similarly labor-intensive. Take his Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever, which must age in the fridge for several days before they are baked. A dozen of the hand-size sweet-and-salty treats goes for $45.
The pair liken their fundraiser to an old-fashioned American bake sale — the Web site is called “Will’s Bake Sale!!!” — with a few 21st-century twists. And while gay marriage, surrogacy and the Internet are all modern phenomena, the human desire for baked goods is not. And the Neville-Rehbehns are counting on it.
“Can you preheat the oven for me, honey?” Will asks as he sets aside the margarita layer cake and starts on Dan’s Grandmother's Lemon Meringue Pie.
Their fundraising campaign illustrates the desire of gay couples to start families and underscores the fact that — like straight couples who face fertility challenges — they are willing to do just about anything to make it happen, said Carrie L. Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, an advocacy group.
“That the cost is now more often a problem than cultural barriers really shows how far we have come,” Evans says. “I think they are doing a beautiful thing, getting their friends and community involved in building a family.”
With the cost of surrogacy with egg donor IVF not covered by insurance running anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000, the Neville-Rehbehns, who both work for nonprofit groups, went on “baby lockdown,” saving everything they could.
Dan, who is casting director for the Shakespeare Theatre Company, took on more teaching. Will, who is director of strategic communications at Advocates for Yo uth, sought extra graphic design work. Even with all of their cost-saving measures, they came up about $6,000 short.
“Agencies. Medical costs. Lawyers. More Lawyers,” they wrote on their Web site.
“To say this is a financial stretch for us is an understatement,” Will says. “But we didn’t want to just ask people for money. I love to bake. I’ll bake if someone had a bad day or if it’s someone’s birthday. Why not bake for this?”
They started the project about a month ago and have gotten half of the money they need, largely from friends, co-workers and people in the infertility community who heard about their baking project on Facebook and wanted to help.
“The reality is that many friends — straight and gay — are struggling with fertility problems and feel so isolated and alone. But we have gotten support from people who order and end up telling us their story,” says Will, who said the site has had more than 3,000 visitors.
“I will always feel like I can lay a claim on their child,” jokes Justin Schneider, 30, who lives in Silver Spring and ordered one of Will’s $85 Chocolate Chip Cakes for a birthday party. “It felt great, because I was able to tell everyone at the party the story of the cake.”
As it happens, Dan and Will’s love story started with baked goods.
They met on Match.com in April 2009.
Will had one deal-breaker:
“If you are one of those gays who doesn’t eat carbs, then I’m not interested,” he remembers telling Dan, adding that he was experimenting with a margarita cupcake.
“And I was actually trying to make a margarita cookie!” Dan says. “We moved in together soon after.”
They lean across the kitchen counter to kiss.
So far, they have received 65 orders and turned their small loft apartment into a kitchen cupboard. Their fridge is stuffed with bags of various graham-cracker crumbs and chocolate-malt crumbs, and of course, birthday-cake crumbs for their Funfetti Birthday Cake.
“One day, we’ll show the Web site and all the supportive notes and orders to our child,” says Will, taking out a blowtorch to carefully and lightly brown the fluffy whipped meringue atop Dan’s Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie.
“It has to be good,” he says. “This stuff is the most important thing we will ever bake.”
© The Washington Post Company
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Next up in equality fight: Transgender discrimination by Daniel Leaderman Staff writer
Jenna Fischetti hopes no one else will have to go through what she did.
A transgender woman, Fischetti says she was fired from her car dealership job in 2004 after her employers discovered that while they knew her as a male at work, she adopted a female persona on weekends.
The official excuses for her dismissal kept shifting, but she said the real reason was clear enough — people just couldn’t accept who she was.
A proposal before the General Assembly this year, however, would protect other transgender individuals from what Fischetti faced.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act, sponsored by Montgomery County Sens. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington and Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
The bill offers the same protections for gender identity that are currently given to sexual orientation, race, religion, age, sex, marital status and national origin.
With 21 co-sponsors, the bill has “a tremendous cross-section of support within the Senate,” Raskin said. “The victory of marriage equality [in 2012] demonstrated that Maryland is a state that believes in equal rights.”
The state’s transgender community deserves fair and equal treatment under the law, Raskin said. Those found guilty of such discrimination can face civil penalties of up to $500 for a first incident and up to $2,500 for a second incident, according to state law.
Similar legislation passed the House in 2011, by a vote of 86-52, but was sent back to committee in the Senate. Three of the senators who voted to recommit that version of the bill have signed on as co-sponsors of this year’s measure.
A highly publicized attack on a transgender woman at a Rosedale McDonald’s in April of that year, after the bill had failed, drew national attention to the issue.
In the past, critics of such measures have raised concerns that such a law could allow sexual predators to freely enter women’s restrooms, but transgender activists argue there’s no evidence that such anti-discrimination laws have led to harassment or assault.
Laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity are already on the books in Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore counties as well as Baltimore city.
“As we’ve been doing this over the years, we’ve seen opposition diminish,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Equality Maryland. Sixteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., have enacted similar laws.
While last year’s battle over same-sex marriage drew substantial opposition from religious leaders, the gender-identity issue tends to not provoke such fervor, Evans said. “It’s hard to find a religious [argument against] people getting and keeping a job based on their merits,” she said.
A similar bill, however, introduced by Raskin in 2012 and sidelined by the same-sex marriage debate, drew opposition from the Maryland Catholic Conference.
In written testimony to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the organization praised the compassionate intent of the bill but argued that it espoused “a fundamental violation of our society’s basic understanding of the human person” and undermined “the inextricable link between a person’s human nature and his or her identity as a man or woman.”
Kathy Dempsey, a spokeswoman for the conference, said she had not yet reviewed this year’s bill but expected the group’s previous objections to remain.
Since leaving the car dealership, Fischetti, who lives in Baltimore, said she has mostly been able to find only low-wage retail jobs that pay less than $10,000 per year. But she qualified for need-based scholarship funds and recently decided to get a college degree from the University of Baltimore, where she is a first-year student.
Fischetti said she had always felt different from other boys as a child, started adopting her female persona part time around 2000 and has been living full time as a woman since 2009.
At 48, she said her age also has made it difficult to find steady work.
“Not as many employers like to hire people in their 40s and 50s,” Fischetti said.
Difficult though it’s been, she is thankful for the support she has received from friends and family.
“I'm still better off than a lot of people,” Fischetti said. “Hopefully the [new law] will make a difference.”
The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing Feb. 26, and supporters are planning a day of lobbying Feb. 18.
© 2013 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./SoMdNews.com
Md. rally focuses on trans rights
February 20, 2013 | 1 Comment
By Steve Charing on February 20, 2013
Sen. Rich Madaleno spoke at a rally in Annapolis this week. (Washington Blade photo by Steve Charing)
A diverse crowd of nearly 200 gathered at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis on Monday to rally behind SB449, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013. The bill, if passed, would ban discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations based on gender identity or expression. The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality sponsored the event and organized the subsequent lobbying efforts for individuals and groups by district.
“We must put our foot on the gas pedal until there is equality all over the state,” Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland and who emceed the rally, told the crowd.
Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) attended the event. He, along with Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), introduced the measure on Jan. 29. Madaleno expressed confidence in the bill’s passage by telling the crowd, “We are on the verge of this last big victory in Maryland,” noting that 23 senators sponsored SB449 and 24 are needed for passage. “I think all of the stars are finally in alignment,” he said.
Last year, a similar bill was passed in the House of Delegates by a margin of 86-52 only to die in the Senate. This year there is much more optimism given that Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller is supporting the bill. Therefore, it is likely to pass in the Senate as well as the House if it can make it out of the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. The JPR is scheduled to hear testimony on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m.
Owen Smith, a transgender man employed by Equality Maryland, led the crowd in chants of “Our time!.” “It’s our time because broad-based organizations have made this a priority. We know it’s our time because our legislators are ready to listen.”
Other speakers at the rally included Rev. Larry Brumfield, Maryland Black Family Alliance; Mara Kiesling, National Center for Transgender Equality; Blake Wideman, Black Trans Men, Inc.; Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City); and Darlene Nipper, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Md. Senate committee holds hearing on transgender rights bill
February 26, 2013 | Leave a comment
By Michael K. Lavers on February 26, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md.–A Maryland state Senate committee on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.
“Many of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,” state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County,) who introduced Senate Bill 449 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 late last month with state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County,) said. He noted lawmakers in 2001 added sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression to Maryland’s anti-discrimination law. “I come before you today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 449 with my good friend from Montgomery County and ask you to fix this omission and ensure that all Marylanders, including my transgender sisters and brothers, are afforded protection under our anti-discrimination laws.”
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, agreed.
“The protections in Senate Bill 449 are needed in real people’s lives,” she said.
Former Montgomery County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union and Liz Seaton of the National Center for Lesbian Rights are among the more than two dozen SB 449 proponents who testified.
“It is difficult to see your child struggle through life because they are transgender,” Millie Jean Byrd said as she spoke about her trans daughter who also testified in support of SB 449.
Caroline Temmermand said her credit card company lowered her credit limit from $5,500 to $200 after she legally changed her name.
“When you talk about transgender folks, we have families,” she said. “You discriminate against us, you discriminate against my family.”
Alex Hickcox of Hyattsville spoke about the fear he said he experiences at work because of his gender identity and expression.
“Everyone in Maryland deserves a safe work environment free from potential harassment or actual harassment and discrimination,” he said. “Everyone in this great state deserves to feel like they have a voice and they don’t have to be silent.”
Baltimore City, along with Baltimore and Howard and Montgomery Counties have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.
Sixteen states and D.C. ban anti-trans discrimination, but SB 449 opponents maintain the bill is unnecessary.
“This bill will force the state and private actors — employers, landlords and others who provide public services — to officially and legally affirm the very delusion that puts these suffering individuals at odds with reality,” Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said. “Not only will it not makes their lives better, but it will prevent them from getting the very help they do need to make their lives better.”
Elaine McDermott and Ruth Jacobs of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government are among those who also testified against the measure. Rev. Derek McCoy of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law Gov. Martin O’Malley signed last year, attended a portion of the hearing.
Marriage referendum provided ‘foundation of understanding’
The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.
O’Malley, who signed Baltimore City’s trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor of the Charm City, told the Washington Blade on Monday he is “absolutely” reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) also backs the proposal.
A spokesperson for state Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) told the Blade on Tuesday he “hasn’t made up his mind on the issue.” State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and Norman Stone, Jr., (D-Baltimore County) also remain undecided.
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, and other advocates remain optimistic SB 449 has enough votes in committee to send it to the full Senate. Madaleno said members of the LGBT legislative caucus “meet regularly with the whole coalition” in anticipation of the bill going to the House of Delegates.
“They’ve managed to get it passed before,” he said. “It’s a matter of laying the groundwork, keeping everyone up to date.”
State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) told the Blade on Monday she feels the passage of last November’s same-sex marriage referendum laid what she described as “a foundation for understanding” of civil rights for all Marylanders.
“You can make the case that everyone who’s different deserves all the same opportunities and rights and responsibilities of our society,” she said. “That was the case we made for marriage and we’re continuing to make it for our transgender friends.”
Madaleno and state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) were the only LGBT members of the state legislature who attended a rally in support of SB 449 at Lawyer’s Mall on Feb. 18. Gay state Del. Peter Murphy (D-Calvert County) testified in support of the measure during the hearing.
“All people are asking is each person in this state, every one in this state, all of our constituents are entitled to the same rights and privileges that everybody else has,” he said.
Advocates stress unity
Beyer said during her testimony she remains more optimistic about the bill’s chances this year, in part, because voters last November upheld the state’s same-sex marriage law. She also cited the American Psychiatric Association’s decision late last year to remove Gender Identity Disorder from its list of mental disorders as additional progress on trans rights.
“This year is different,” Beyer said. “This year the arc of the moral universe will bring justice to Maryland.”
The committee is expected to vote on whether to send SB 449 to the full Senate by next Thursday.
Meanwhile, the measure’s supporters maintain they hopeful lawmakers will support the proposal.
“Ultimately we are all united in our drive to achieve fairness for trans Marylanders,” Keith Thirion of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality told the Blade after the hearing ended. “We don’t let go of that.”
Connie O’Malley of Baltimore agreed.
“Everybody is really focused on the goal, which is to protect the vulnerable people that need the protection,” she said. “We are doing our best to focus on staying united on that goal.”
'Superman' author's gay-rights opposition prompts local boycott
Ian Sayre of Gorilla King Comics joins national outcry, won't sell two issues by Orson Scott Card
The new Superman. (DC Comics )
February 21, 2013|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun
A Baltimore comic store has joined the growing public outcry over DC Comics' decision to hire a gay-marriage opponent and author to write part of the coming "Adventures of Superman" series.
Joining many shops nationwide, Gorilla King Comics in Fells Point will not sell the two issues expected to
"I have a lot of gay customers," says owner Ian Sayre. "I don't want someone to come in here, see that and think that's me or that anyone in the store supports his policies."
Since announcing the partnership with Card, the well-known science fiction author of "Ender's Game," DC Comics has faced outraged comics fans.
Card, who is on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, has campaigned vigorously against gay marriage. Opinion pieces the author has written have linked same-sex marriage to the end of civilization.
"[M]arriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy," he wrote in 2008 in the Mormon Times.
More than 14,000 people have signed an online petition asking the company to drop Card.
"We need to let DC Comics know they can't support Orson Scott Card or his work to keep LGBT people as second-class citizens," wrote the petition's creator, All Out, an organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. "By hiring Orson Scott Card despite his anti-gay efforts, you are giving him a new platform and supporting his hate."
The controversy comes as marriage equality gains momentum nationwide. In November, Maryland, Maine and Washington voters approved referendums legalizing same-sex marriages, making a total of nine states and the District of Columbia that allow them.
DC Comics appears to be standing behind Card.
"As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression," read a company-issued statement. "However the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself."
National Organization for Marriage communications director Thomas Peters appreciates the company's support of Card. "It's grossly unfair to try to threaten someone's livelihood simply because they believe marriage is the union of husband and wife," Peters said. "He has a right to his personal beliefs. It's good to see that DC Comics is standing by him."
A digital version of "Adventures of Superman" is due out in April, with a print book to be released in May. Gorilla King will carry the rest of the Superman series — the issues written by others.
Some comic outlets have no problem stocking Card's work.
Jeremy Adams, who owns Alliance Comics in Federal Hill, said Card was entitled to his own opinions.
"Is he going to be writing an anti-gay storyline into Superman? If not, I don't care what his politics are," said Adams. "As long as he's not trying to force them on anyone else, he can do what he wants."
Adams said he's never had a complaint about Card's other comic books, such as the Formic Wars series he did for Marvel.
The manager of Cards Comics and Collectibles in Reisterstown said he hadn't decided how to handle the controversy but was inclined to carry the comics. "We'll probably carry it just because there will be enough interest in it that we'll want it," said store manager Chuck Fitzsimmons. "Orson Scott Card has quite a fan base."
Steve Geppi, president of the Baltimore-based Diamond Book Distributors, a comic book enterprise, said it's tricky to judge an author's work because of his lifestyle, adding, "Some of the greatest literature was probably written by people with skeletons in their closet."
He thinks DC Comics would face a "mass exodus" of talent if it started censoring writers based on factors such as political views. "It seems that this is fundamentally a First Amendment issue disguised as a gay-marriage issue," he said. "It's a little bit of a PC police issue."
Robert Jacobs of Towson, who has been a comic book collector since childhood and is gay, is feeling disillusioned about one of his favorite companies.
"I'm disappointed that [DC Comics, which] I actually look up to and enjoy, would pick someone that sits on a board that's trying to take away rights or keep people from getting the rights the deserve," said Jacobs, who's 40 and works for Diamond. "I'm disappointed in DC Comics because ... why would they choose him if they knew that?"
The fact that Card is writing for Superman makes it even harder to swallow.
"He is Superman," Jacobs said. "He's one of the biggest iconic heroes. He would stand up for people's rights. ... It's what Superman stands for."
Owen Smith, who is gay and a longtime fan of comics including DC Comics' "Superman" and "Batman," said he would no longer buy products from the company.
The Baltimore 30-year-old, who is Equality Maryland's field organizer for gender equality issues, said his mother bought him comic books to help him learn to read — but they also helped him learn that being different was OK.
When disenfranchised young people turn to comics, Smith says, the endorsement of Card sends an "awful" message.
"The beauty of comics is how they show people it's OK to be a mild-mannered person on the outside, a nerdy, glasses-wearing skinny person, but you can be go into a phone booth and change into a person that can change the world," he said. "Hiring [Orson Scott Card] is a statement to say, 'It's not OK to be who you are.'
"What is that showing the young LGBT readers? That because they're LGBT that they're not accepted? That's awful and should never happen."
Same-sex marriage advocate siding with Republican on tax reform
By ALEX JACKSON Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013 5:00 am
Having fought for an equal right to be married, same-sex couples should be on a level playing field when it comes to filing state tax returns, said Annapolitan Scott Bowling, a former City Council candidate who was one of the first to receive a same-sex marriage license from the Circuit Court in Annapolis.
And that is why Bowling is supporting a bill on this subject by Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis — and not a higher-profile measure submitted by House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery.
Bowling, who ran for alderman as a Republican, said that in Barve’s bill “politics are being played.”
The measure — which has 57 co-sponsors — says that “a married couple who does not file a joint federal income tax return may file a joint Maryland income tax return.” That would give same-sex married couples the option to file tax returns as if they were single, in the same way they did before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state.
McMillan’s bill, which has no co-sponsors, would require same-sex couples, like heterosexual married couples, to file joint Maryland income tax returns or married-filing-separately returns.
Bowling said McMillan, who voted against Gov. Martin O’Malley’s same-sex marriage proposal, took a “huge step,” by submitting his bill. Bowling said that when he and his spouse are taxed, he wants to be treated the same as a heterosexual married couple.
“We fought for equality, not equality with perks,” Bowling said. “The purpose of equality was to eliminate the differentiation.”
Maryland is the only income tax collecting state that recognizes gay marriage but has no legislation permitting same sex couples to file joint state or married filing separately returns.
In December, state Comptroller Peter Franchot said he wants to allow married same-sex couples to file jointly in Maryland. He said this will require regulatory or legislative changes because, unless state law specifies otherwise, the Maryland tax code conforms with federal tax law.
Maryland currently requires the filing status for state and federal returns to be the same, and same-sex couples can’t file joint returns under federal law.
There will be no tax consequences for newly married same-sex couples until 2014, since the state’s Civil Marriage Protection Act took effect in January 2013.
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, has seen the bills but has yet to take a stance on the issue. She said she’s waiting for progress to be made in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court is hearing a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1996 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
If DOMA is found unconstitutional, same-sex couples married at the state level will become eligible for the same federal treatment as opposite-sex couples on financial matters such as taxes and Social Security benefits.
Also needing clarification is whether tax changes can be made legislatively or by regulation. Evans said her group is working to make sure this law is implemented in every component of state law.
“It really could be a moot point in August if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA,” Evans said.
Barve said Friday he has yet to read McMillan’s bill, and so wasn’t willing to comment.
McMillan said that he supports civil unions and voted against same-sex marriage, but his measure, House Bill 47, wasn’t inspired by that battle. He doesn’t know why Democrats don’t prefer his bill.
“I would ask them if you came here last year and lobbied me (for equality), how can you now say you’ll support something that gives a tax advantage the next year,” he said.
McMillan’s bill and Barve’s House Bill 380 are set to be heard at 1 p.m. Feb. 26 in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Maryland Senate committee holds hearing on gender-identity bill
By John Riley
Published on February 27, 2013, 6:49pm | Comments
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on SB449 – a bill to prohibit discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people in Maryland in the areas of employment, credit, housing and public accommodations – as proponents and opponents of the measure aimed their testimony at certain senators who may be key in determining whether the bill advances to the Senate floor for a vote by the full chamber.
Throughout the testimony, witnesses on both sides addressed specific senators on the committee, often noting that they were constituents. Many witnesses supporting the bill pointed out that eight of the committee's 11 members already live in Maryland jurisdictions that have expansive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.
Dr. Dana Beyer, the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a primary organizational backer of the bill, testified about the political shift that has happened in recent years regarding the public's feelings toward LGBT people. Quoting President Barack Obama's inaugural speech and Vice President Joe Biden's statement that transgender discrimination is ''the civil rights issue of our time,'' Beyer laid out arguments for why legislators should approve the bill. She also referenced a 2011 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals – which covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia – that found that transgender discrimination is sex-based discrimination.
Behind Beyer, supporters of SB449 filled the audience, many of them dressed in purple to show solidarity and demonstrate their support for the measure. Several wore stickers reading, ''Now is Our Time!''
Out gay Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery Co.), one of the bill's chief cosponsors, does not sit on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, but testified in favor of SB449, as did Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles Co.), another member of the General Assembly's LGBT Caucus.
In his testimony, Madaleno specifically singled out Sen. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore Co.), who has historically been an opponent of LGBT rights, telling Stone that the bill's supporters were not asking for anything other than protections similar to those that Stone's constituents currently enjoy at the county level. Several other witnesses testifying in favor of the bill noted that they lived in Essex or Dundalk, two major cities in Stone's district, which includes blue-collar neighborhoods on the southeastern edge of Baltimore.
The other senator to whom several comments were directed was Sen. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's Co.), thought to be one of the committee's crucial swing votes. Muse, a newcomer to the committee, replaced Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George's Co.), who has been reassigned to the Finance Committee. Ramirez, a supporter of LGBT rights, is one of the bill's 23 cosponsors.
In 2011, Ramirez and Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore Co.) voted to move a gender-identity bill that did not include public accommodations to the floor in a 7-4 vote, but Brochin had also offered an amendment to exclude housing from the list of protections. That amendment failed, 5-6.
In 2012, when faced with a more comprehensive bill, Brochin again expressed reticence, but turning his focus away from housing to public accommodations, specifically public restrooms. With Ramirez gone, the 11-member committee now has five senators who voted for the 2011 bill and against the Brochin amendment.
The bill needs the support of six senators to move out of committee, meaning Muse could be crucial to passage if Brochin votes with Stone and the committee's three Republicans, all four of whom opposed the 2011 bill. Muse was one of only four senators on the committee to stay through the entire hearing, and actively participated, asking questions from those who testified in order to clarify his understanding of the bill and the witnesses' arguments for and against it.
Madaleno told Metro Weekly after the hearing that he felt many of the witnesses backing the bill had directed their testimony toward Muse for that reason. Madaleno commended Muse for being so engaged in the hearing, sticking it out until its end, around 8:30 p.m.
Supporters of the bill relied heavily on testimony from transgender residents and their family and friends, who told personal stories of how gender-identity discrimination had hurt them.
''This isn't about sexuality, this isn't about who you like, it's about I'm a human,'' said Lauren Stokling, a transgender woman who recounted being discriminated against in her job, arguing that job security shouldn't be based on the whims of a prejudiced supervisor. ''I'm a human who pays taxes, who works, just like everybody in this room, and just because somebody wakes up one day and decides they don't like what I look like, or what I stand for, it shouldn't be a day-to-day situation, particularly when they get away with it.''
Supporters also attempted to preempt opponents' arguments, with Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery Co.), the bill's other chief cosponsor, warning his colleagues that they would hear ''extravagant hypotheticals'' from opponents aimed at shocking or repulsing committee members to get them to defeat the bill.
The bill's opponents largely focused on three major arguments: that being transgender is something to be ''cured'' with therapy; that allowing transgender people access to public accommodations will put women and children at risk in public restrooms or locker rooms; and that the bill does not offer enough explicit religious exemptions to allow businesses, schools or individuals not directly associated with churches or religious institutions to openly discriminate.
''The definition [of transgender] includes cross-dressers as well as transgenders, because it's behavior and expression,'' said Ruth Jacobs, a conservative activist from Montgomery County who was involved with the failed attempt to repeal that county's gender-identity nondiscrimination law, which passed in 2007. ''There are about 3 percent cross-dressers. Those people are protected under the law. Those are the people … [that do] exposures in bathroom stalls, masturbating and so forth.''
''We don't want to bring these issues up,'' Jacobs continued. ''They make us look funny, because no one believes somebody would do it. But everyone says 'You have not seen these episodes anywhere.' What we've noticed is there seem to be more of these things, if you do a thorough Internet search, than there were when you started. This whole process has degraded and violated the respect for women and their privacy.''
Following the hearing, Madaleno and Carrie Evans, the executive director of Equality Maryland, the state's primary LGBT-advocacy organization, both told Metro Weekly they were confident of the quality of testimony that the bill's backers had provided to the committee, with Madaleno saying he felt ''good'' about the bill's chances.
''I thought our side had compelling, moving stories from transgender people across the state,'' Madaleno said. ''I think the other side had fear and their tired arguments that they have used before. I thought we did a fine job of going through and trying to debunk all of their myths.''
Evans said that including the personal stories as part of testimony has proven effective in the past.
''We learned that in the marriage fight,'' she said. ''When we changed hearts and minds of legislators, and we asked them why, it was the stories. It was people standing before them, with stories, who live here in Maryland. And it's no different for transgender realities. It's not abstract to them. It's real people with real stories … to show why they need to pass this law.''
Evans also was critical of the bill's opponents, noting they were outnumbered. In all, fewer than 10 people testified against the bill, while about 25 people testified in favor.
''Every year, they bring out the hypotheticals and misrepresent legal cases that haven't happened, or have the facts entirely wrong,'' Evans said. ''They have a few individuals – you saw the strength of our testimony, and the breadth of it – and they have the same handful of five or six folks who come out and who don't even make much sense sometimes. We think we're going to get this out of Judicial Proceedings this week, and get it to the floor, and get it to the House.''
The committee is expected to vote on SB449 within the next week. If it passes, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate President Thomas V. ''Mike'' Miller (D) has previously indicated that he is open to allowing a vote if supporters of a particular bill – whether gun control, the repeal of the death penalty, or transgender rights – can show they have the votes necessary for passage. If the bill passes the Senate, it heads to the House of Delegates.
In 2011, the gender-identity bill that failed in the Senate passed the House by a margin of 86-52. Supporters of the bill say they're confident of having the 71 votes required for passage in the lower chamber.
Prince George's pulls video that advocates therapy for gay teens
February 7, 2013 | 8:00 pm | Modified: February 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner
Prince George's County Public Schools has pulled from six middle-school health classes a controversial video that discusses therapy as a tool to help gay teens become straight.
The video, called "Acception," is part of a bullying-prevention curriculum crafted by Washington-area filmmaker and psychologist Christopher Doyle.
The 20-minute film features four teenagers' struggles with bullying: One boy is bullied in the locker room, a second boy is rejected by his family after telling them he is gay, a girl comes out of the closet and a second girl describes overcoming feelings of attraction toward women and eventually getting married to a man. A roughly five-minute segment also discusses whether people are born gay and describes reparative therapy as an option for gay people who want to be straight.
The film came under fire for this apparent advocacy of reparative therapy.
"It's a horrible, dangerous message to send to gay, lesbian, bi[sexual] and trans[gender] children -- that if you pray hard enough or if you do x, y and z, your sexual orientation can be changed," said Carrie Evans, executive director of gay-rights group Equality Maryland.
Prince George's County Public Schools pulled the video and the curriculum earlier this week to review it "because there were questions around whether or not it was appropriate," said schools spokesman Briant Coleman. The questions arose after the Washington City Paper began looking into the film's use.
After reviewing the video, "we determined there was not enough information about bullying prevention to justify using it as a supplemental resource for our anti-bullying program," Coleman said. "We made a determination that it could be perceived as being biased and too focused on homosexuality."
The video and the curriculum have been replaced by other anti-bullying materials.
The materials were initially approved by the school system's health council, which sets the curriculum for health classes, Coleman said, adding that the Maryland State Department of Education approved it, too.
But Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the state does not approve materials or curricula used in local programs and had no role in selecting Doyle's video.
Doyle said he doesn't understand the fuss. The curriculum is being taught in 12 school districts across eight states, he said. He declined to say where the schools using the materials are located.
"Sexuality is only one minor part of the bullying-prevention curriculum," he said. The film also talks about students who struggle with their weight, minority students who are targeted, and tactics for standing up to bullies.
Himself gay-turned-straight, Doyle is the director of the International Healing Foundation, an organization that believes people should be able to choose whether to be attracted to people of the same sex. Forcing gay-to-straight therapy on teens who don't want it is not his intent, he said.
"[The video]'s intended to give students all of the information and be inclusive toward all students."