EQUALITY MARYLAND CALLS FOR A VOTE ON ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION

Contact Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh and Vice Chairwoman Lisa Gladden and urge them to vote, once and for all, on SB 566, gender identity anti-discrimination legislation. Call today.
Sen. Frosh: 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3124 (toll free)
Sen. Gladden: 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3697 (toll free)
With four days remaining until the end of the 2009 legislative session, the prospects of passing gender identity discrimination legislation are fading. During hearings in February and March, House and Senate committees were urged by transgender Marylanders who have been fired from their jobs or harassed by employers, discriminated against in rental housing, and denied access to safe social services for the homeless to clarify in law that such discrimination is illegal.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, in response to urges for movement on the legislation, has placed the bill on its voting agenda four times. Each time, the Committee has chosen a path of inaction, opting to hold off on a vote. In the latest move, the committee on Wednesday, April 8 again voted to hold off on considering a vote on the bill until Friday, April 10. Committee Chairman Brian Frosh (D-16) holds the power to bring the measure for a vote.
Despite good faith efforts led by the bill sponsors, Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-21), Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), and equality Maryland to address lawmakers’ concerns about public facilities and to appease religious organizations by exempting them from the hiring protections in the bill, the Judicial Proceedings Committee continues to stall a vote on this important bill.
“To date, no issue or concern with the legislation has been identified to which we have not responded with a reasonable solution,” said Delegate Peña-Melnyk. “At this late date, the strategy of Senate leaders is clear: hold the legislation and run out the clock on the 2009 session, which ends Monday, April 13, at midnight.”
Equality Maryland’s response is simple: No matter the outcome, Senator Frosh, take this vote. Outlawing blatant discrimination, rather than condoning it through inaction, is a moral imperative for our state. Responding to discrimination is not an issue that is too hot to handle, especially when those affected may be incapable of putting supper on the table, a roof over their head or supporting their children – especially in these difficult economic times.
It is worth noting that members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee have been actively communicated with by broad constituencies, including advocates for the homeless, civil rights groups, the state’s human relations commission, religious organizations, and unions. Together, these groups have spoken with one voice, imploring legislators to address a documented public policy issue: transgender persons are statistically at much greater risk for underemployment and unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and resultant health disparities because of housing and employment discrimination.
We know and recognize that many people are deeply uncomfortable with how a transgender person may identify or appear, but that discomfort cannot be used as an excuse to deny an already vulnerable group of their ability to find employment or a place to live. The anti-discrimination legislation before the Maryland General Assembly does not address social mores, or force religious organizations to hire transgender people, or create hardships for businesses. It simply states that transgender people should be able to earn a living being judged on their qualifications and abilities alone, and able to access housing and needed services without prejudice barring the way.
Discrimination is a sad reality that deserves to be addressed by legislators.
Contact Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh and Vice Chairwoman Lisa Gladden and urge them to vote, once and for all, on SB 566, gender identity anti-discrimination legislation. Call today.
Sen. Frosh: 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3124 (toll free)
Sen. Gladden: 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3697 (toll free)

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