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.

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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