A bill aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender people passed the Maryland Senate on Wednesday. But the bill (SB 212) is highly emotionally-charged in part because critics say it would enable cross-dressers to use women’s bathrooms. The issue dubbed the “bathroom bill” has gone viral on Facebook and other social media sites and opponents are threatening to petition the bill to referendum if the bill which passed the Senate also passes the House of Delegates. Gov. Martin O’Malley supports the bill.
A group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) in an e-mail Legislative Alert said: “SB 212 defines ‘gender identity’ as a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth, which may be demonstrated by: (1) consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity; or (2) any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity’ In other words, if a boy decides he is a girl, he can use the girls’ room if this bill becomes law.”
The Legislative Alert goes on to say: “Already some grown men try to hide in women’s bathrooms to commit their crimes, as in the case of Frank F. Fuchs, a Missouri resident, who hid in public restroom stalls at least twice with avideo camera, which he used to film occupants of nearby stalls. Under this bill Frank would be quite welcome to boldly walk into the ladies’ room where he would continue taping…or worse. All he has to do is claim he identifies as a woman.”
Supporters of the bill claim there are controls that would prevent that from happening. The bill indeed has some major supporters. Washington Blade, the Gay and Lesbian newspaper, reported that a number of Catholics support the bill, including O’Malley,gubernatorial candidates Heather Miseur (a lesbian) and Anthony Brown, and the National Coalition of American Nuns. However, the Maryland Catholic Conference, representing the state’s bishops, sent a letter opposed to the bill.
Only three Democrats split with the party rank and file in the Senate to join Republicans in opposing the bill, including Senator Roy Dyson, who represents St. Mary’s and southern Calvert. Senators Mike Miller (Calvert) and Mac Middleton (Charles) voted in favor of the bill.
The bill not only covers bathrooms but other potential points of discrimination, Including hiring, housing and service in restaurants. It is officially called “Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014.”
The Senate bill upon passage by that body was assigned to the House Health and Government Operations Committee for hearing.