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Senate OKs bill to stop transgender discrimination

ANNAPOLIS — Transgender individuals are one step closer to receiving protection from anti-discrimination laws after a bill passed in the Maryland Senate Tuesday.

The bill, called the “Fairness for all Marylanders Act of 2014,” would forbid employers, property renters and public businesses from discriminating against individuals based on gender identity. If signed into law, the measure would require businesses such as restaurants or movie theaters to serve transgender individuals.

“Under the current law, there’s no protection for transgender people,” Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.

Before the bill passed 32-15, Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, gave some opposition by asking questions about the use of bathrooms in public businesses.

A man who fits the definition to be identified as a woman “can go into the women’s restroom, whether there are young children, and there’s no provision to stop that,” Simonaire said.

“Transgender people have been going to the bathroom a long time,” Raskin said in an interview. “When these laws pass, very little changes, because most of them are going to the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity already.”

Simonaire’s reservations notwithstanding, no other senators spoke in opposition to the measure.

Raskin was optimistic that the bill will face little opposition in the House, despite what he called “partisan character” and Simonaire’s pushback.

“The important parts of this are that people should not be fired because they are transgender, should not be kicked out of housing because they are transgender, and the whole question of bathrooms are really a sideshow,” he continued.

A House committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday.

-Ethan Barton, CNS

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