County Council Approves 'Historic' Bill Protecting Transgendered from Discrimination

Council votes 4-1 to approve a bill to provide legal protection for transgender residents.

Before Monday night's Howard County Council legislative session, Woodstock resident Catherine Hyde predicted she would cry if Bill 54-2011 passed.

Hyde had worked hard on behalf of her transgender daughter and others like her to get a local bill passed that protects them against certain types of discriminatory practices.

She also expressed hope that her own district councilman, Greg Fox, would support the bill that would provide legal protection for Howard County's transgender residents.

"Fox is my guy," Hyde said. "I really hope he can find it in his heart to do the right thing instead of the need to just go on the record. But we don't need him to get the bill passed."

The bill amends the Health and Social Services title of the Howard County Code to include gender identity and expression as a protected class.

As a result, the bill:

• Makes it illegal to engage in discriminatory practices against transgender individuals with regard to housing, employment and accommodations.

• Calls for violations to be addressed through human rights laws.

Hyde did cry when the council voted 4-1 in favor of the bill.

Fox was the lone dissenting vote.

But it didn't seem to matter to Hyde and about 30 other proponents on hand to see what some of them referred to as an historic event.

After predicting a vote that followed party lines, Laurel resident Sharon Brackett said the reason the law is needed is "really simple."

"Transgenders are the last social group that it's OK to discriminate against," the board chairwoman of Gender Rights Maryland said. "A law like this sets the tone that it's not OK to discriminate."

Civil rights legislation is fundamental to changing behavior, even if it does not change the beliefs of some, Brackett said.

Brackett talked of some of the struggles faced by the transgender community.

Nearly one half of individuals who openly identify as transgender are fired from their jobs or can't find employment at all, she said.

Of those who find employment, almost 90 percent are harassed on the job.

"And here's the big one: 41 percent of trans have either considered or attempted suicide," she said.

When the percentage of the general population in that category went from 1.5 percent to 3 percent because of soldiers returning home from war in depressed states, the Department of Defense said it was an epidemic, according to Brackett.

"If 3 percent is an epidemic, what do they think 41 percent is?" she said.

With a public hearing already held, the council had little discussion when the bill was reached on the agenda.

Newly elected council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty moved to approve the bill, and a vote was quickly called.

With the exception of Fox, members thanked each other for working together to craft the bill.

Newly elected Vice Chairwoman Courtney Watson said the council reached out and worked collaboratively with many groups, including the Howard County Public School System, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG and Gender Rights Maryland, as well as the citizens of Howard County, to pass a law that affords protection to a group that often faces discrimination.

The bill is important, she said, because it's about respect for each individual and ensures that all citizens can "live life free of discrimination."

In delivering his vote of opposition, Fox said he believed what the bill strives to do is already covered by federal and state law and is unneccessary at the local level.

After the vote, proponents seemed almost stunned at their victory.

Slowly, they began smiling broadly at each other. One woman lifted her arms in the air.

Others sent text messages on their phones to spread the news as the meeting continued.

And Hyde took out a tissue and wiped the tears from her face.

Brook Hubbard December 06, 2011 at 09:18 PM
http://www.transgenderlaw.org/ndlaws/index.htm The State of Maryland does not currently have any laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Maryland HB 474 died in session in 2009 and no further bill has been introduced. Only one jurisdiction (the city of Baltimore) has passed a local law prohibiting such behavior. The Federal Government has not passed a bill prohibiting discrimination in employment on this basis either. Although the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced several times, it has never been passed and is still lingering since its reintroduction in 2011. State and Federal laws only prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, country of origin, disabilities, and genetics. There is no law on the books for those in Howard County to prohibit employers from discriminating against transgender individuals. Similarly, there is no law on the Federal or State level prohibiting discrimination against said individuals when they try to buy a home or rent an apartment. Thus, Howard County would be the second Maryland local government to pass a law that specifically prohibits said practices. This is an obvious necessity as there is recorded discrimination against individuals nationwide, including in our own state.
MG42 December 06, 2011 at 09:40 PM
You provide two general examples (employment and rental/purchase of homes), but is there actually a specific example of discrimination happening in Howard County in these areas to transgender people? And if there were, would a transgender person want to work for or pay rent to a bigot or simply take their skillset/money to a competitor of the bigot? We don't need a law to protect every possible bucket that you can lump someone in. I think people need to grow up a little bit.
Nonlinear December 06, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Isn't it illegal to ask about, age, race, religion, and gender(s) in all cases anyway? And how would I spot a Transgender, if it walked up and filled out an application to rent one of my currently, completely occupied apartments?
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Read what I posted above. It is illegal to discriminate because of race, sex, religion, age, country of origin, disabilities, and genetics. It is ~not~ illegal to discriminate because of gender identity (which is different than biological sex). And while some transgender individuals may not be obvious, others are. Imagine if Ru Paul walked up and tried to rent a place? It would not be illegal for someone to deny them rental based on how s/he looked.
Michiko Ota Eyre December 07, 2011 at 12:54 AM
There's a good amount of employment discrimination that takes place when someone, as a part of their transition therapy, starts to transition on the job. This involves a change of appearance, an eventual change of name and a need to use the restrooms of their identified gender. There have been many business owners/managers who have fired employees, including ones who have been loyal for many years when they announced that they were transitioning. At the Maryland state hearings, you heard many business owners who were concerned about the impact that someone's gender transition would have on their business. One of the biggest excuses we heard was "well, this was not the person I hired". It is the same person, they are just making changes to their outsides to be congruent with their identified gender. We have heard about employees who have been fired because while they dress and behave and identify within their birth gender in the workplace, they may cross dress during off times outside the workplace (gender expression discrimination).
Michiko Ota Eyre December 07, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Also, there are some transgender people out there who may have not been able to change their name or they have not been able to get their identification changed to be congruent with their identified gender. The latter can be done in half of the states (the Dept. of State also does it for passports and passport cards) and requires certification by a physician, normally through a letter (in the case of Maryland, it's more of an extensive process that involves providing the MVA a short case history, the application is reviewed and either approved or rejected). Not everyone can afford medical care and those in that situation may have non congruent identity. (e.g. the gender and name on their identity may not match their current appearance)
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 12:56 AM
So, you ask for examples, I provide them... and then those examples aren't specific enough? It sounds like you will never accept any example, no matter how precise. I do not work in law or politics. I don't have access to legal files or official complaints. So no, I cannot provide a precise example of a case of discrimination in Howard County. However, I doubt you can provide evidence that said discrimination has never occurred within our community. Your example also reveals your approach to this whole matter. I suppose all those minorities in the south who still deal with White Supremacist hate groups should just move away from the south? Why should Blacks want to live near them anyway? According to your view, they should just take their livelihoods elsewhere.
Michiko Ota Eyre December 07, 2011 at 12:56 AM
The Howard County law protects gender identity and gender expression. This means both those who have been medically diagnosed and those who have not but have the mannerisms and presentation of a gender other than their biological sex are protected under this ordinance. While I personally am willing to accept regulation that limits certain rights (workplace and sex-segregated public accommodations) to those with a verified medical condition, the laws that provide overall protections provide the most protection for the most people. All these laws do is remove a loophole in the law that prevents discrimination against a minority group that has been oppressed, has a high suicide rate and a high homeless rate and minimal power influence compared to other minority groups. This law gives transsexual and transgender persons a chance at being successful. For those who identify as transsexual and those who identify as transgender who are committed to the transition process and receiving medical care, these protections are medically necessary. For those who are not under medical care, this is about basic human rights. Remember, everyone has a gender identity, even those who identify with the gender congruent with your assigned sex at birth. So it's not only the transgender/transsexual population who benefits from these laws.
Laquita Brown December 07, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Will the county council ever think about protecting children? Instead, this law protects perverts and other sexual deviants. A man doesn't have a "right" to crossdress and then and use the girl's locker room. We need to stop teaching our children that it is an acceptable choice to be a homosexual or transgender
Nonlinear December 07, 2011 at 01:34 AM
Laquita brings up an old point. Homosexual is a foregone conclusion I think Laquita, that group has protection that won't be rolled back. Transgenders are a smaller group ( I think) which doesn't make it less an issue, but does not put it high on the priority list. Also, family has to teach, not government. Government helps control conflict.
MG42 December 07, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Brook, I would have hoped that the County Council would have examined specific examples of transgender discrimination in depth that you could have cited, but I suppose it's too much to ask of the Council to be more than a rubber stamp. Comparing the plight of the transgender community to that of those in the old south is so absurd as to be approaching offensive. That said, the moral zeitgeist of the times have shifted significantly since the Civil Rights Movement, and the civil rights laws are not currently needed in this more enlightened era.
Michiko Ota Eyre December 07, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Laquita, a MAN does not have the right to enter a sex-segregated public accommodation such as a woman's restroom or locker room. However, a transsexual woman who has been medically diagnosed with a neurological medical condition who may have been assigned the male sex at birth who is going through a regimen of hormone replacement treatments has a medical need to be in there. For those who are truly transsexual, this is not a choice. Do not confuse transsexuals (those with a medical condition) and crossdressers (those who dress in the other gender for sexual pleasure/fetish/etc.).. See my previous comments. For many in this protected class, this is a medical necessity, not a deviance.
Andrew Kanicki December 07, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Laquita, Being gay is no more a choice, than being black is. I think we need to stop teaching our childeren to be ignorant, un-educated, bigots. Just a thought...
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 03:24 AM
I'm sorry, but if you believe we no longer need Civil RIghts laws to protect minority groups from "archaic" racism, then I'm not sure what world you are living in. Even if you haven't personally witnessed that racism is still rampant and requires laws to keep it back, you can just take a look into articles about racism in the 21st century. Hate groups still exist. Communities still have vocal members asking for segregation (like the Kentucky Baptist Church). Racial slurs have been reported being thrown not only at the general public but at leaders, even more so since Obama was elected. Blacks and women, even with the laws in place, still face a disparity in equal treatment in the workplace. None of these are opinions or assumptions; you can look up each one of these situations through research. The only reason many people are being "nice" is because the laws ~make~ them. The second you remove those laws, you can bet that the hidden bigotry and prejudice will return openly.
MG42 December 07, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Believe me, Brook, I'm not sure what world your living in either. You're right about racial slurs being thrown around in public- last time I heard one was in the Cee Lo Green video. Not sure when charges will be pressed against him under these Civli Rights you think are so essential... You mention employment disparity between women and blacks as examples of prejudice. In the workplace, people are paid on their productivity. Women often take employment breaks to raise children, call in sick more, etc. Look at human history: it was nearly all made by men. This can explain why women earn less, this is not sexist, it's a rational view of the world. I have no idea why blacks face higher unemployment rates. However, there is an achievement gap between whites and some minorities even in our well regarded Howard County Public Schools. Nobody knows what the explanation is, but I am skeptical that it's racism. Seriously, if you think the only reason people aren't nearly as racist as they once were is because of the laws, you have a naive and sad view of the world.
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 01:25 PM
What you posted makes no logical sense. The use of the "N"-word by African-Americans is not a sign of hate speech. Like many words in the English language, the "N"-word has multiple meanings depending on the user and the situation. Think about the term "Gay", which could be used for its archaic meaning, as a positive label, or as a disparaging remark. You decry the previous use of fallacies yet you yourself are guilty of equivocation and etymological fallacies. As for the rest, again your statement reveals your particular worldview and complete lack of reason. What you say comes down to: A) It's a man's world. Women will struggle in it, because they act like women in a man's world. That's not sexist... that's just the way it is. B) There's an achievement gap between Whites and Blacks. You can't explain why these things exist. That's not racism... that's just the way it is. There is so much lack of reason and common sense in those statements I couldn't even begin to list what's wrong with them. I'm sorry, but there is no way to have a logical discussion with you, Ohai. I'm done and I feel very sorry that you think about the world through that viewpoint.
hmj December 07, 2011 at 01:30 PM
It seems that this legislation has surfaced the self-centered loons that only think of themselves and not the cost to the community at large. It is all about them and their need for recognition of the fringe elements. The Council is now populated with too many Chaz Bono cheerleaders, Barney Frank buffoons, and Sandusky supporters. Equal protection for all is their calling.
LRD December 07, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Seriously? and equal protection for all is a bad thing?
hmj December 07, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Only when it is taken to an exteme --- like in this case. Next on the agenda is equal protection for obese people and polygamists. The list goes on.
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 02:49 PM
As reminded above by one of your associates, ad hominem attacks do nothing to support your side of the equation. How is this protection of individuals who have been proven to suffer from discrimination going to negatively affect the community at large? Is that really what you're railing against or that protecting transgender people will "threaten" ~your~ misconceptions on what the community needs and/or should be?
hmj December 07, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Brook --- so now you are so very concerned about discrimination against polygamists? or obese people as well ? You miss the entire message --- this is just a pointless political exercise designed to pacify some people. No one is going to argue that this is no discrimination in society. The questions are ---- do you pass a new law each time a group believes they need protection ? and what special rights and protections go along with it ? The courts are filled with cases of individuals pushing various discrimination claims (transgendered inmates and those seeking a change are one such group) that go way beyond what anyone ever intended. Check out the case in Virginia now. Great for lawyers looking to cash in, but not for taxpaying citizens. Sorry time does not permit more on the topic.
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Did they really need to pass the Age Discrimination in Employment Act they had already passed the Civil Rights Act? After all, those seniors didn't need protection from companies that refused to hire the elderly or pushed them out of their jobs. Did they really need to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act? After all, the disabled and handicapped didn't need help with the same problems. There are a number of acts passed because the original legislation did not protect specific groups. The original Civil Rights act ~only~ protected people based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Those who chose to discriminate would find loopholes in the language that allowed them to bypass the law; new laws were necessary to patch these loopholes. Does every last little group need legislation? No. However, when a minority group exists and suffers because of lack of protection, then legislation is needed. As for your examples: Polygamy is a choice. Choices are not usually protected, except where they are covered under religion. If this is a religious matter over the strict definition of marriage, whether to allow polygamy falls under the same arguments as whether to allow same-sex marriage. Honestly, I could care less as long as everyone participating is consenting. Obesity is a medical condition and is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Prior to that act in 1990, yes... you ~could~ discriminate against someone who was obese.
Nadeest December 07, 2011 at 05:34 PM
I do not live in Howard County, however I AM transgendered, and transsexual. We do face discrimination daily. I've dealt with it, and every other transsexual person that I have ever known has dealt with it, often on a daily basis. I've got a friend that gets harassed every time that she gets on a city bus, seems like. She doesn't do anything wrong, she is just a tall black transsexual woman, and that tends to attract attention. If you think that this is a choice that we made, to become transsexual, you are completely and utterly wrong. I would not wish this condition on my worst enemy. Shooting them so that they are paralyzed and can never walk again or make love again, would be far kinder to them. Many of us in this community have been turned away from homeless shelters, because we are transgendered. It is often far more difficult for us to get a job, especially in the beginning stages of our transition. Try getting a job as 'Susan' when you show beard shadow under your makeup, for example. We are denied insurance coverage for our necessary medical care routinely. Check your health insurance policy that was issued through your job, if you would like. In all probability, it states that transsexual surgeries or medical care is not covered. These treatments are medically necessary. The AMA put out a statement on this subject some time ago. We truly are discriminated against, and this protection is needed. Btw, there are transsexual males as well.
Nadeest December 07, 2011 at 05:38 PM
If you don't believe me, check the National Center for Transgender Equality website, and read the results of the survey that they undertook. Also, you might want to read this article: http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2011/12/trans-latinoa-discrimination-report.html
oldtwnlaurel December 07, 2011 at 10:46 PM
hmj, of course, sees obesity as a moral failing. Anything that can allow some people to look down on others must be a moral failing, it's the American way.
oldtwnlaurel December 07, 2011 at 11:06 PM
There you go Nadeest, throwing facts out into the moralistic feeding frenzy kicked up by people who are disinterested in them. You deserve to have no rights because, well, these people don't like anything different from them, and see protection as approval. After all, what if some of these people wanted to lay a beat-down on you because, as good Christians, they take objection to your drawing breath. Well now, horror of horrors, there are laws saying they can't. Donatism and Pelagianism are infections in our Churches, particularly those that have no more authority than a preacher in a slick suite and a floppy Bible.
Nadeest December 08, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Oldtwnlaurel, if they did that to me, I'd do my best to return the favor, with interest. The Marine Corps never taught me to be nice, when it came to fighting. By the way, for everyone's information, there are an awful lot of transgendered individuals out there, that have served our country in the armed forces. I had to look up what Pelagianism meant, as I am a simple person, nor am I a Christian. I have, however, read the Bible, and think that people would be better off if they followed Jesus's teachings more closely. From what I've read, he mainly emphasized love and acceptance of others, not feeling superior to them, or telling them how to live.
Marlene December 10, 2011 at 10:13 PM
This lack of a law on gender identity and expression covers *you* as well, Ohai! Say you like wearing flannel shirts, jeans, a pair of work boots, and have a short haircut as you enter a business, and they refuse to serve you, because you fit a certain gender stereotype. How would *you* feel if you were mistaken for a stereotypical transperson? Non-discrimination laws are for *everyone*! We ALL have a certain gender identity and expression, and lots of "normal" people violate them as well! Whart if you entered a store where the owner refuses to serve anyone who doesn't fit *their* definition of a "woman", ie makeup, skirt/dress, high heels? That would be discriminatory based on gender expression, right?
Marlene December 10, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Ohai -- The reason *why* there are no statistics on gender identity/expression discrimination is because there's no agency in the county to act on such bias, let alone compile any claims of discrimination!
Marlene December 10, 2011 at 11:50 PM
"What about the children?" as a stereotypical fearmongering tactic spewed by the religious reicht and other hate groups to furthur demonie and dehumanize the trans community. So far there as been no -- let me repeat -- NO examples of transwomen abusing, violating, or raping anyone in a ladies' toilet! I'm no more a "pervert" than YOU are, darling! I go into the ladies' loo for one reason and ONE reason only, just as any other woman. You need to quit listening to the voices of fear, hate, and bigotry and listen to the voices of transfolk across this country. Who better to tell you our lives? It certainly isn't some cowardly bigot hiding behind a pulpit, I can assure you! Finally, what about the *transgendered* children, Laquita? Are *their* lives any less that *yours*? You think it's okay for a transgender chilrd to be beaten, spit on, ridiculed, bullied to death or even *murdered* because they're different?


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