Dana Beyer, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dana Beyer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore County Council voted 5-2 on Feb. 21 to approve a bill that bans discrimination against transgender people in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

But a similar bill that would cover the entire state died in committee in the Maryland State Senate in April, ending chances for passing the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act in the state legislature in 2012.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide group that led the lobbying campaign for the state bill, said supporters were gearing up to push for the bill’s passage in the legislature in 2013.

Beyer said that while advocates were disappointed in the setback on the statewide bill, the passage of a transgender non-discrimination measure in Baltimore County increased the state’s population covered under similar protections to 47 percent.

She noted that Howard County approved a nearly identical bill in December 2011. Baltimore City and Montgomery County approved similar bills several years earlier. According to Beyer, nearly 95 percent of the state’s transgender people live in those four jurisdictions.

“So in that respect, practically speaking, we’ve done the job,” she said, in providing legal protection for transgender people in the state.

Political observers sympathetic to the state bill have said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince Georges and Calvert Counties) orchestrated its demise in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Some observers say Miller acted because he believed the bill didn’t have the votes to pass in the full Senate and he didn’t want the Senate Democratic leadership linked to the bill’s defeat on the floor. Others, however, say Miller blocked the bill because he personally opposes it. Miller’s office didn’t respond to calls for comment.