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.