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Maryland advocates must unite to pass trans bill

Lawyer's Mall, Annapolis, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, transgender community

Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By ANGELA

 

The end of 2013 means the 2014 Maryland legislative session is soon to begin. Like in years past, 2014 will open with no federal or statewide law expressly banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The absence of these protections leaves the Maryland transgender community uniquely vulnerable to rampant discrimination.

A widely cited study published in 2010 confirms that transgender Marylanders are experiencing crisis levels of discrimination. Seventy-one percent of transgender Marylanders reported harassment in the workplace and nearly half reported losing a job, not being hired or being denied promotions simply because of who they are. More than half reported being harassed in public spaces. Perhaps most tellingly, 43 percent reported having attempted suicide.  The general public attempted suicide at a rate of 1.6 percent. In short, discrimination against transgender Marylanders is the norm and, with little hope for fairness, they are escaping through death. One need not be a transgender person to be alarmed.

Each year, transgender people and their allies advocate for Maryland’s legislature to pass a statewide ban on gender identity discrimination in Maryland. The statistics above, and people’s individual stories, show that these protections are desperately needed.

Each year, this newspaper covers the campaign to ban gender identity discrimination and the obstacles that stand in the way.  But for all that has been written on this topic, one thing has been missed: the need for greater unity and cooperation among all who care about transgender people in Maryland and support legal protections against gender identity discrimination.

Last year, I served on the steering committee of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, which counts among its members virtually all of Maryland’s transgender-focused advocacy organizations except for one. My position made me a first-hand witness to the conflict among activist groups seeking passage of last year’s gender identity bill, the Fairness For All Marylanders Act.

Last year’s conflicts, as with years past, extended far beyond mere disagreement. They included advocacy organizations actively opposing one another’s efforts to pass the bill. For example, I witnessed one organization holding a lobby day event and rally to gather support for the bill. I saw a rival organization actively work to suppress participation. I saw one organization try to tear down its rival by persuading its membership to resign from it. If we support gender identity legislation, then this is the type of dissension we cannot afford. Efforts need to be directed toward passing gender identity protections rather than tearing one another down.

Disagreements are normal, and even a necessary part of making progress. But active attempts by gender identity advocates to suppress efforts at passing gender identity legislation are neither normal nor productive. The Fairness for All Marylanders Act failed by a single vote. You have to wonder if its fate might have been different had advocates set aside their differences and worked together to focus their efforts on passing a bill that the entire transgender community and all of its allies could stand behind.

Indeed, we are so close to success in passing the bill that I suspect the only thing we lack is unified focus on the legislation instead of on competition among advocacy groups. Marriage equality came to Maryland once its advocates unified and formed a coalition to work together on achieving it. Passing gender identity legislation requires its supporters to do the same.

The transgender community needs advocates who will focus their energy on fighting for it instead of fighting among themselves. All of us who care for transgender people hope that the lessons of last year, and of years past, have been learned and that this year will be different. We all want the advocates to set aside their differences, pull together and get this done.

Let’s stand together and make this the year we all succeed.

The Washington Blade agreed to withhold the author’s last name due to her ongoing struggle with employment discrimination.

09
Dec
2013

Juvenile attacks hamper effort to pass Md. trans bill

transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade, trans

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Recently there was an op-ed in the Washington Blade entitled “Maryland advocates must unite to pass trans bill” by a “guest columnist.” The author, who chose not to offer her full name, made several allegations about trans advocacy organizations in the state.

Unlike the author, I will identify myself as the current board chair and a founder of Gender Rights Maryland (GRMD), the state’s only organization founded specifically to pass legislation in Maryland to protect trans rights. Unlike the author, I am happy to name organizations as my group and I were intimately involved in this past year’s efforts in Annapolis to pass the gender identity antidiscrimination bill, SB449.

I am not going to explain at length the differences between GRMD and any other state or local organization seeking passage of these protections for gender non-conforming persons, but I will address the specifics as charged by the author.

GRMD is not a member of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality (MCTE), even though we instigated, with PFLAG National, the creation of the forerunner of that organization in late 2011. We left the organization in the spring of 2012 for a variety of reasons that will be revealed in coming weeks in various public forums and publications. GRMD makes no apologies for that decision.

As to the author’s “first hand” witnessing of events it is pretty clear from her writing that she was, at best, a second-hand witness, and has surprisingly little evidence to back up her allegations.

My organization, GRMD, did not support the lobby day, which was organized and promoted by Equality Maryland and the MCTE.

Long before lobby day, SB449 had 23 Maryland Senate sponsors, including Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman. For those unaware, 24 votes are required to pass legislation in the Senate. In addition, Senate President Mike Miller asserted on a number of occasions that he would support the bill (bringing us to the magic number of 24). Thus, if the bill were to make it out of committee to the floor of the Senate, it most assuredly would pass. Alas, there were three Democratic senators on the Judicial Proceedings Committee who voted “no;” had only one of them voted “yes,” the bill would have proceeded to the Senate floor. The reasons for those “no” votes were personal for each senator, and had nothing to do with any disagreement among the advocates.

The purpose of a well-organized lobby day would be to show support to legislators and apply pressure to those who were impediments or on the fence.  Aside from those three senators on the JPR committee there was no point in raising the profile of the bill in the Senate, a position supported by the chamber’s leadership. GRMD’s position was that the focus should be on those three senators, and not the entire Senate. The best way to achieve this, in our opinion, was by one-on-one, face-to-face, scheduled meetings. If those efforts were coordinated with a keen legislative focus then perhaps we might have had another opinion. That is why we did not support the lobby day effort.

As to undermining the bill, it is interesting to note that not supporting something these days is perceived as “undermining.” I dare the author to produce a single document, social media post or email solicitation urging the public to not attend. Please, bring forth such evidence.

The second charge, for which I have evidence, is that a ranking member of the MCTE did indeed engage in a campaign to convince members of our board of directors and policy advisory board to resign. At the request of the board members I will not reveal the details of that exchange; however, I will provide an excerpt of a message received by at least one board member to authenticate the event. I have purposely removed the most offensive language (which was directed at one of our board members who is well respected in the community of color).  The typos are in the original message and retained here. The last bit, of course, was directed at me.

“I am disappointed with your sitting on the Policy Advisory Board of a transphobic organization. … This is NOT an organization poised to lead. This is not an organization seeking to serve. the community. It is an organization to serve its board’s insatiable egos…..

“They participate in ‘whisper’ campaigns and spread ‘platitudes’. There are 33 people sitting on various boards. All chefs and no cooks. EVERY single one of their primary boards were in favor of compromising before negotiations, believed a partial bill was a pathway, in spite of history showing it had never been done. there is no leadership, and a fish rots from the head back …”

For the record, GRMD — this “poorly led,” all-volunteer organization — went on to spearhead passage of comprehensive bills in Howard and Baltimore counties within six months of incorporation. While we chose not to make any public pronouncements at the time, this person has repeatedly made attacks on my organization and our leadership, many of them personal. We have never called this person out and even now will not name names. We will let the MCTE police their own, or not.

I am happy to note that our organization does enjoy an active set of working boards with representatives from all persuasions, including LGB, straight and most assuredly trans communities.

It is unfortunate that the tactic here is the same one taken from the GOP playbook as of late where you blame everybody instead of the instigators. It is like saying the U.S. House is broken when the reality is there is a collection of bad actors in one party doing the damage and blaming all. We have remained largely silent on many of these antics, working to be the adult in the room. But there comes a time where you can only stand so much. That would be now.

So as for the author’s plea for unity, that sounds great. But the notion that the marriage equality effort was without differences is nonsense. Standing together cannot occur as long as there are juvenile attacks underway. GRMD has one goal — to pass antidiscrimination legislation. Pass it efficiently, quickly, quietly and comprehensively. That is all we do. Period.

Sharon Brackett is chair of Gender Rights Maryland.

15
Dec
2013

Coalition seeks trans rights

Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Seventeen local, state and national organizations have joined with individual activists to form the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, in a broad effort to fight for trans rights.

MCTE’s mission is to advance equal rights for transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people in Maryland through leadership, collaborative decision-making processes and resources.

Over the spring and summer of 2012, MCTE held several listening sessions across the state. Through these sessions MCTE asked community members to share their vision of progress for trans people in the state. Attendees articulated a demand for a broader coalition to do this work. Acting on that directive, MCTE has brought together numerous organizations working for equality and justice in Maryland.

“Equality Maryland embraces doing this vital work in a coalition that has trans individuals at the center of decision-making,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland in a statement. “We witnessed the power of a coalition winning and preserving marriage equality and we are confident this model will succeed for trans equality.”

Other organizations in the coalition include ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Black Pride, FreeState Legal Project, Maryland NOW (National Organization for Women), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and PFLAG. For more information, visit mdtransequality.org.

09
Jan
2013

Md. rally focuses on trans rights

Rich Madaleno, gay news, Washington Blade, Annapolis, Maryland, Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality

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.

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.

20
Feb
2013

Md. Senate committee holds hearing on transgender rights bill

Jamie Raskin, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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.

Rich Madaleno, Dana Beyer, Jamie Raskin, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

State Sen. Rich Madaleno, Dana Beyer and state Sen. Jamie Raskin. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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.”

27
Feb
2013

Md. Senate committee kills transgender rights bill

Lisa Gladden, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-District 41) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Maryland state Senate committee on Thursday struck down a bill that would have banned anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.

The 6-5 vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee came slightly more than two weeks after it held a hearing on Senate Bill 449 — the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 — that state Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced.

Raskin along with state Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County,) Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City,) Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) voted for SB 449. Senators Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County,) C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County,) Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties,) James Brochin (D-Baltimore County,) Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.

“Despite months of hard work by our broad coalition of supporters, key committee members were unwilling to advance the promise of equality under the law to the transgender community,” Madaleno said in an e-mail he sent to his constituents after the vote. “A majority of committee members were unwilling to pass a bill that prohibited discrimination by restaurants, theaters, hotels, shopping centers and other places of public accommodations. Their lack of understanding and empathy for their fellow Marylanders is appalling.”

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, also expressed outrage.

“Bigotry won the day, and I say that because the sponsor bent over backward to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues,” she told the Washington Blade. “None of it was good enough, nor did they then offer any solution themselves other than to strip out public accommodations protections entirely.”

“It is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans added.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, and other SB 449 opponents testified against the measure during the Feb. 26 committee hearing.

“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,” Sprigg 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.”

The state House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.

Governor Martin O’Malley, who signed Baltimore City’s trans rights ordinance into law in 2002 when he was mayor, told the Washington Blade last month he was “absolutely” reaching out to state lawmakers to encourage them to support SB 449. State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) and other gay state lawmakers with whom the Blade spoke after the committee’s Feb. 26 hearing stressed the passage of last November’s referendum on the same-sex marriage law O’Malley signed had provided a foundation of support upon which they thought the measure could have passed.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) also backed SB 449.

“It is now 14 years since transgender protections were stripped from LGBT anti-discrimination legislation by the General Assembly,” Donna Cartwright of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality said. “It’s long past time for the legislature to take meaningful action to address the severe discrimination and disadvantage that trans people face.”

Baltimore County, of which Brochin represents portions in Annapolis, along with Montgomery and Howard Counties and Baltimore City have already adopted trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws.

“[Brochin] had at least 1,000 constituents contact him asking him to support this bill,” Evans said. “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.”

Sixteen states and D.C. currently ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Madaleno and other SB 449 supporters vow they will continue to fight to protect trans Marylanders from discrimination.

“This fight is not over, and together we continue undeterred on our path to full equality and freedom for all,” Madaleno said.

“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,“ added Evans.

14
Mar
2013