Friday, April 03, 2009

MPW: State Nondiscrimination Bill Stalled in Committee

A couple of days ago, Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch had an unpdate on the situation with a gender-identity nondiscrimination bill at the state level. Let me just repeat what he wrote over there:
For the third year in a row, a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity is headed to the abyss. Why? It cannot get a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings (JPR) Committee.

In 2007, an anti-discrimination bill had 25 House sponsors and 2 Senate sponsors. It received an unfavorable report by JPR. In 2008, another anti-discrimination bill had 2 House sponsors and 3 Senate sponsors. It did not come to a committee vote in either the Senate or the House. This year’s bill has 67 House sponsors and 14 Senate sponsors. Every Montgomery legislator except Senators Brian Frosh (D-16) – the JPR Chairman – and Rona Kramer (D-14) and Delegates Ben Kramer (D-19), Henry Heller (D-19) and Herman Taylor (D-14) is co-sponsoring the bill.

The House Judiciary Committee is not the problem since 13 of its 22 members are co-sponsors. But they are waiting for JPR to act. Only 3 of JPR’s 11 members (Senators Lisa Gladden, Jennie Forehand and Jamie Raskin) are co-sponsoring the bill. And there it sits, unwanted by most of the rest of the committee. We hear that some JPR Democrats are asking - half-jokingly - whether passage of the bill means that their female secretaries will be getting mustaches or beards.

The bill probably does not have enough support to pass JPR since the lineup is the same as in 2007, when the committee did not pass it. But now that the bill has attracted massive support in the House, shouldn’t JPR Chairman Frosh at least allow a vote?

The whole thing seems to come down to Brian Frosh. If the committee would vote, the bill might move forward, but the committee can't vote if the chair doesn't allow it. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me will have something to say in the comments about what is motivating Frosh to hold this up.

Generally, there seem to be two forces at work here. The first is something that is sometimes called "political necessity" or "political expedience." Politicians sometimes have to endorse ridiculous and bizarre positions just because they'll be criticized if they don't. A legislator who proposes a bill, especially a civil rights bill that protects an unpopular minority, might be slimed by his or her opponents as being "immoral" or worse, and so the politician has to calculate whether the political cost outweighs the policy gain. It's too bad they have to think like that, but it's a consequence of a system that elects its leaders, if they want to stay in office they have to make the voters happy, and that goal may conflict with the goal of implementing the best policies.

The other force at work here, obviously, is ignorance. I trust that Adam hears insider scuttlebutt and doesn't make this stuff up. Democrats on this committee are actually joking about their secretaries getting mustaches or beards? Are you kidding me? Democrats? You remember, when Montgomery County was facing the possibility of a referendum to bring back gender-identity discrimination, the big issue, the expensive thing was going to be educating voters. Most people don't give a thought to gender identity, there aren't very many transgender people and they tend to keep a low profile, so most people don't know anything about the subject. The Citizens for Responsible Whatever were able to exploit fear and stereotypes to get people to sign petitions -- unfortunately for them, more than half their signatures were thrown out because of forgeries and irregularities -- and the only way to oppose them was going to be a massive and expensive education campaign.

The referendum campaign was going to educate regular-Joe voters, who have an excuse for being ignorant about something they've never been around. This is different, I would expect our elected Democratic politicians to know a little something about the issue, I would expect that a couple of people have talked to them about gender identity and what the state bill would mean to transgender people. There might be reasons to vote against it, I'm not saying every Democrat has to have the same opinion about it, but ... secretaries having mustaches and beards? What is this, second grade?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Jim, third grade.

April 03, 2009 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" - a very sarcastic and childish response. That, however, is what we have come to expect of you. I guess when one does not support equal rights for all of our residents in Maryland, resorting to stupidity is reflective of one's bigotry.

April 03, 2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Three cheers for the heart of the heartland,

April 4, 2009
Iowa Court Voids Gay Marriage Ban

DES MOINES — Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage on Friday, after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided that a 1998 law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

The decision was the culmination of a four-year legal battle that began with a suit filed on behalf of six same-sex couples in the lower courts.

The Supreme Court said same-sex marriages could begin in Iowa in as soon as 21 days, making Iowa only the third state in the nation, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, to legalize gay marriage. While the same-sex marriage debate has played out on both coasts, the Midwest — where no states had permitted same-sex marriage — was seen as entirely different. In the past, at least six states in the Midwest were among those around the country that adopted amendments to their state constitutions banning same-sex marriage.

“We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law,” the Iowa justices wrote in their opinion. “If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded.”

“The concept of equal protection, is deeply rooted in our national and state history, but that history reveals this concept is often expressed far more easily than it is practiced,” the court wrote.

Iowa has enforced its constitution in a series of landmark court decisions, including those that struck down slavery (in 1839) and segregation (cases in 1868 and 1873), and upheld women’s rights by becoming the first state in the nation to allow a woman to practice law, in 1869....

April 03, 2009 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
It would be nice to know that politicians would do what they think is right instead of what would keep them in office. I suppose, though, that is why many of them are politicians. They give up doing what is right to hold a seat.

April 03, 2009 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Here's the Iowa Supreme Court ruling

April 03, 2009 2:05 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Not always, Andrea. Not infrequently, though, either, which is why President Kennedy called his book, "Profiles in Courage."

April 03, 2009 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Brian Frosh is a profile in courage, standing up to the vicious gay agenda.

April 03, 2009 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Profile in courage?

"Bill would help domestic violence victims get guns
By Julie Bykowicz
March 22, 2009

A group of senators has added a twist to Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to take guns from the subjects of protective orders, voting to make it easier for domestic violence victims to get guns of their own.

By a 6-5 decision, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee amended a bill last week that would require a judge to confiscate firearms when granting a final protective order. They changed the legislation to include a provision that the judge help speed a petitioner's application for a permit to carry a weapon.

The House of Delegates has already approved the governor's measure on final protective orders - and rejected similar attempts to give victims easier access to firearms.

The Senate alteration could doom the final protective order bill if the House and Senate cannot work out their differences.

Maryland Politics blog "I know the House did not want this," said Sen. Anthony Muse, a Prince George's County Democrat who offered the amendment to his fellow committee members on Thursday. "But the reality is, there are victims the police can't protect."

A spokesman for O'Malley, a Democrat, said it is too early to worry about the future of the protective order legislation.

The Senate could strip out Muse's amendment when it takes up the bill this week. If not, a conference committee of senators and delegates would take up the matter.

Republican Del. Tony McConkey of Anne Arundel County pushed a similar bill in the House to ease the gun-application process for victims of domestic violence. Del. Michael E. Smigiel, a Cecil County Republican, offered an amendment, which would have done the same thing, to another bill. Both were handily defeated after heated debates on the House floor.

McConkey and Smigiel, as well as other Republicans who spoke up during the House debates said it was hypocritical to take guns from suspected abusers while not trying to help victims protect themselves.

Support for that argument was divided on the Senate panel. Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he did not support the amendment "because it isn't appropriate or necessary."

Muse said he viewed it as on point because "the theme of the bill is protection, and protection should go both ways."

Victims rights groups oppose the idea, saying guns and domestic violence are a bad mix, no matter who is in possession of the weapon. During the House debate, Del. Sue Hecht, a Frederick County Democrat who has been active for more than a decade in domestic violence prevention programs, said state police told her they did not deny any permits last year requested by abuse victims.

If it becomes law, the person who was awarded a final protective order would have to meet all of the standards now in place for being able to carry a firearm, a permit issued by the Maryland State Police. However, the judge issuing the order would be able to expedite the process, Muse said.

As a pastor, Muse said, he has given eulogies at four recent services for victims of domestic violence. He said some victims are "helpless and in utter fear and should be able to get guns if they want them.""

April 03, 2009 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" - a totally irrelevant discussion of an issue not at issue here. Notice the heading: "MPW:State Nondiscrimination Bill Stalled in Committee"? Why do you always insist on diverting the discussion to what it is that you want to rant and rave about? I guess it's just another of your tactics to undermine the purposes of the Vigilence blog site. Perhaps you would get more jollies by taking on the "flaming liberals" at Maryland Politics Watch or Free State Politics?

April 04, 2009 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The whole thing seems to come down to Brian Frosh. If the committee would vote, the bill might move forward, but the committee can't vote if the chair doesn't allow it."

Go Brian.

Looks like someone's got an easy re-election in his future!

Serving your constituents has that effect in a democracy.

April 05, 2009 7:05 PM  

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