Howard County's transgender residents could find themselves more protected by law after tonight's Howard County Council meeting.
A bill that would amend the county's Health and Scoial Services Title of the Howard County Code is eligible for a vote tonight, according to council Administrator Stephen LeGendre.
The amendment would include gender identity and expression as a classification protected against certain types of unlawful, discriminatory practices, including housing and employment.
The bill was introduced by Council Chairman Calvin Ball, Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Terrasa and members Mary Kay Sigaty and Courtney Watson on Nov. 7.
A public hearing on the proposal was held Nov. 21, and the bill's third reading is today, making it eligible for a vote, LeGendre said.
"Three things could happen tonight," he said Monday. "The bill could be adopted, it could be amended and adopted, or it could be tabled."
All four of the bill's sponsors confirmed their support for the legislation following the Nov. 21, hearing, according to Explore Howard.
"The hearing drew more than 50 supporters of the bill, which aims to prevent transgender and gender nonconforming persons from being discriminated against with regard to employment, housing and public accommodations," Explore Howard reported.
Opponents are concerned about "ambiguous" language regarding public accommodations and what that means for the use of public restrooms, Explore Howard reported.
They are also concerned that the council's bill might be a "knee-jerk" reaction to the April beating of a transgender woman in a Baltimore County McDonald's restaurant, according to Explore Howard.
Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman, was badly beaten by two people after she used the women's restroom at the Rosedale McDonald's. Video shot by a restaurant employee shows Polis being beaten and kicked until she appears to have a seizure, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Woodstock resident Catherine Hyde, the parent of a transgender child, said passing the bill is important to the safety of transgender residents.
"When a transgender uses the bathroom, the person at risk is the trans," Hyde said Monday. "Whether they go to the bathroom of their birth gender or their identity gender, they are the ones at risk — this is about their safety."
Hyde, who serves as the transgender network coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Howard County, said she wants her daughter to be healthy and happy, and be able to secure a job and housing when she finishes college.
"Howard County prides itself on doing the right thing," Hyde said. "And here's an opportunity to do just that."
The Howard County Council meets in legislative session at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.