Entries from: Maryland

Out state lawmakers fight for transgender rights

tomammianoOpenly gay and lesbian state lawmakers are spearheading efforts in multiple states to pass laws protecting transgender people.

In California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (pictured) is fighting to protect California’s transgender students from discrimination in schools. Last week, he introduced legislation that would grant students the right to use public school bathrooms and participate on sports teams that match their expressed genders, according to  the Associated Press.

Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is already illegal in California, but Ammiano’s bill would be the first in the country to specifically address transgender students’ right to use the restroom and join the sports team that corresponds with their gender identity.

Just next door, Nevada law does not currently protect people from discrimination based on gender identity. Pat Spearman, an openly lesbian state Senator, introduced a bill Monday that would make Nevada the next state to include gender identity in its hate crimes statute.

Sen. Spearman, who said she was the victim of an attack when she was 21, emphasized the importance of adding gender identity to existing hate crimes laws. “Whenever crimes are committed by perpetrators and they are clearly committed only on the basis of a particular aspect of that person’s characteristics, then I think justice requires us to act,” she told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Las Vegas Sun reported that supporters from the community filled the room, overflowing into the hall. No one present opposed the bill.

In Maryland, openly gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno and ally state Sen. Jamie Raskin have proposed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, which would add gender identity to the list of protected identities under the state’s hate crimes statute. The measure died in committee in 2012, but supporters are confident that the important bill will pass this year.

“Many of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,” Sen. Madaleno said. “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.”

Governor O’Malley told the Washington Blade last week that he is “absolutely” reaching out to lawmakers to urge them to pass the bill.

Photo: Sacramento Bee

Out Maryland legislator introduces transgender rights bill

SVoss-Madaleno08Maryland could soon become the 17th state to pass laws that ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression in the workplace, housing market, and public accommodations.

Openly gay State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced the “Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013” Tuesday along with co-sponsor State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County). The bill had more than 20 co-sponsors upon its introduction, just a vote shy of the total required for passage.

A similar piece of legislation failed to make it past a Senate committee last year. But advocates are optimistic this year given Maryland’s historic marriage equality vote last November, and the strong, early support the measure has garnered so far.

“Put simply, the process of passing a bill requires that you line up the votes you need to make it through a chamber,” Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, told the Washington Blade. “That process is eased considerably when those legislators are willing to sign on as co-sponsors. I am very pleased we can show this degree of support in the Senate, which I attribute to the diligent work of Senators Madaleno and Raskin and their staffs. The trans community should be very hopeful that this is the year.”

The bill will head to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in the coming month, where it is expected to pass easily. It will then go to the Senate floor for a vote (assuming Senate President V. Thomas “Mike” Miller permits it on the floor), followed by a full hearing in the House.

Photo: Steven Voss

Maryland Senate gives final approval to marriage bill

MadalenoThe Maryland Senate has passed a bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, legislation which Gov. Martin O’Malley lobbied for and intends to sign.  The new law will not go into effect until January 2013, after opponents have had an opportunity to reverse it through a statewide ballot question.

Among those fighting for the measure was Sen. Richard Madaleno, the chamber’s only openly gay member and Maryland’s first openly gay state lawmaker, who gave an impassioned speech about his family – his partner and their two children – and the importance of marriage to them.  ”We are going to make history, because we are going to take another important step toward embracing every family in Maryland,” Madaleno said.

“We are enormously proud of Sen. Madaleno for his years of advocacy for LGBT Marylanders.  This is a huge victory for him and for his openly gay and lesbian colleagues in the House, and a dramatic step forward for Maryland and its people,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.  ”We also congratulate Equality Maryland, the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition and Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose lobbying and strategizing was so crucial to this victory.”

[Editor's note:  Send your congratulations to Sen. Madaleno via Twitter at @RichMadaleno]

Maryland House passes marriage equality bill

MarylandStateHouseX390The Maryland House of Delegates tonight, led by seven openly gay and lesbian lawmakers, passed a bill granting marriage rights for same-sex couples.  The move comes a year after a similar bill was pulled from the floor after a whip count made clear it was short of the necessary votes.  The bill now moves to the Maryland Senate, where many believe it has enough support to pass.

“We’re very proud of the gay and lesbian delegates whose leadership has been crucial in this debate.  Maryland’s lawmakers understand better the necessity of legal marriage for all couples because they serve alongside gays and lesbians whose loving, committed relationships reflect their own,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has pushed hard for the bill in this legislative session, which ends in March.

Maryland marriage vote expected this afternoon

The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to vote after 4:30 pm today on a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

Earlier today the bill’s managers fought off attempts to substantially change the legislation through amendments.  Opponents also tried to delay a vote until next week, but those efforts also failed.

If it passes today, the legislation will next be taken up by the Maryland Senate.