Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Was the Nondiscrimination Bill Derailed?

The Maryland Politics blog at the Baltimore Sun has been following the insider stuff going on with the state's gender identity nondiscrimination bill. The bill passed easily in the House of Delegates and was sent to the Senate, where it was siderailed to a dead-end committee, making sure it will not be voted on.

Why was this one bill chosen for this treatment, and no other? One theory is that this was itself an instance of anti-transgender discrimination. The competing theory is the the Senate is getting even with the House for not passing the marriage bill.
The Senate president's decision to sideline House-backed legislation to prevent the discrimination of transgendered people has infuriated activists and some lawmakers.

On Saturday, the House of Delegates voted 86-52 in favor of the bill, shipping it to the Senate before the Monday crossover deadline. It was one of 94 bills that arrived at the Senate doors over the weekend -- and the only one to land in the Rules Committee rather than in a panel that can move legislation to the full chamber.

"It goes there to die or because it was late," said a steaming Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who sponsored the anti-discrimination legislation. "My bill was not late." Transgender discrimination bill subject to discrimination, some say

If you've followed the story you know that the deadline was set and the House made sure to send the bill to the Senate on time.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller offered his take yesterday: "At this point in time I’d say the chances of passage of that bill are next to none." He added that his chamber "spent a lot of time" on "important social issues" only to see them die in the House, an apparent reference to the same-sex marriage legislation.

Miller did not support the right of same-sex couples to marry but, knowing a majority of senators wanted the bill passed, labored to move it along to the House of Delegates. Bill leaders in the House did not secure enough votes for passage and marooned the bill in a committee.

Yes, it was lame the way the marriage bill got undermined in the House. Delegates favored marriage equality, but some were picked off by religious groups in their districts that did not want to use the word "marriage" for same-sex unions, and the majority was split. That debate should have been resolved before the bill advanced to a vote, but unfortunately some important questions were not addressed sufficiently as it moved through committees and was debated on the floor.

On the other hand, that bill has nothing at all to do with this one.
Gay-rights group Equality Maryland and Pena-Melnyk called Miller's move on the anti-discrimination bill unfair, comparing his tactics to the bullying that transgendered people can face.

"The way this bill is being handled, with such an iron fist, it's like a big bully," Pena-Melnyk said. "It's absolutely disrespectful and gross. It's marginalizing a small group of people and telling them they don't count."

Pena-Melnyk noted she waited more than an hour yesterday to talk with Miller, a fellow Prince George's County Democrat, to no avail.

In a release this afternoon, Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets wrote, "Here's the irony -- a bill designed to eliminate discrimination is now be subject to discriminatory procedure."

If the bill had gone to a vote, it would have passed, just as it did in the House. The people of the state and their representatives agree that it is reasonable to prevent discrimination against people on the basis of their gender identity. Most agree the bill should have been stronger, but it was a lot better than nothing.
The Rules Committee has met at least once since the transgender anti-discrimination bill was sent there, but it has not taken up the issue. "It's all up to the president," said Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, the Baltimore County Democrat who chairs Rules.

Asked whether it was unusual to assign a timely bill to her committee, Klausmeier said she didn't know, but then later conceded it was.

Politicians! Of course it was unusual. This is not the way business is conducted at all. This is what you do when you want to kill a piece of legislation that you know is going to be enacted into law otherwise.
"I'm trying to work with the president to get it out," she said. If Rules does vote out the bill, it would move to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which could hold a hearing on it, vote and send it to the full chamber.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, who sits on Judicial Proceedings and supports the bill, offered a theory on what's happening:

"I think the president perceives the disappointment of the Senate in the House's failure to pass the marriage bill," the Montgomery County Democrat said. "There is lingering disappointment."

He added: "We shouldn't express our disappointment in the failure of one major civil rights bill by killing another one."

Oh, okay, there's the other explanation. This isn't an expression of prejudice against transgender people, it is the Senate's way of going neener-neener to the House for not passing the marriage bill that the Senate sent to them last month.

Great, just great.


Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

April 2, 2011

Via e-mail

The Honorable Brian Frosh (
Miller Senate Office Building, 2 East Wing
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Senator Frosh:

I am writing to you as Advocacy Chair of the Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and as a life-long resident of Montgomery County.

Like so many people, I was heartened by the House of Delegates' overwhelming passage of a bill to end much of the discrimination faced by transgender people. And then I was shocked to see the bill sent not to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, but, rather, to the Rules Committee, which is a mechanism for killing a bill at the end of a legislative session. As chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which underwent a signficant change of membership (for the better) this year, you showed leadership and simple humanity in bringing Civil Marriage Equality to successful votes in the Committee and in the full Senate. While the House apparently is not quite there yet, this was a big step in the right direction, and I am confident that over the next months we will be able to convince those delegates who personally favor the bill, but are concerned about constituent opposition, to show courage and leadership by explaining their support and voting in favor. So I am optimistic about the 2012 session.

As a supporter of the transgender anti-discrimination bill, I urge you to show leadership by working with Senator Miller to bring that bill to a vote. I know there are only a few days left in the legislative session, but this bill is important to many lives, and there are no good reasons not to pass it. As the House of Delegates vote demonstrated, transgender anti-discrimination is an "easier lift" than civil marriage equality. The votes are there -- if only there will be a vote.

This morning I read this analysis of the situation in the State Senate:

The article's assertions were quite troubling. Please act now to put this to rest.


David S. Fishback, Advocacy Chair
Member, Board of Directors, Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

April 02, 2011 11:09 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Thank you David, for your time and effort in supporting this bill.



April 02, 2011 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the two bills were killed for the same reason:

Democrats are afraid to pass gay agenda legislation because it will obviously be up for referendum at the next election and they don't want an abundance of energized pro-family voters showing up at the polls in 2012

there to vote against the gay agenda, they might vote for all kinds of things

the possibilities scare the bejeebies outta 'em

April 02, 2011 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time to teach "Anonymous" some pertinent facts.

As of Feb 28, 2011, there were 1,956,583 registered Democrats and 925,067 registered Republicans in the state of Maryland. See for yourself

The voters have absolutely nothing to do with Mike Miller's ego.

April 02, 2011 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's nice

but strange things can happen when the right people show up to vote

our last governor was Republican

the last things the Dems want is a referendum bringing out the conservative vote

since you enjoy pertinent facts, here's one:

no state has ever voted to enact the gay agenda

not even Mary land

April 02, 2011 8:59 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


Please define "the gay agenda."

April 03, 2011 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"our last governor was Republican"

Actually our last governor is our current Governor Martin O'Malley, who beat Bobby Ehrlich in 2006 by 6.5 percentage points and again in 2010 by double digits.

You are delusional if you think conservatives can win statewide in Maryland in other than the year after 9/11.

"no state has ever voted to enact the gay agenda

not even Mary land"

You forgot the mosts important word: "yet"

As the voting trend above and every poll over time shows, time is on our side.

The arc of universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

April 03, 2011 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please define "the gay agenda.""

come on, David, you've asked this many times before and gotten an answer many times

it's an effort to use governmental authority to force everyone to think, speak and act as if homosexuality is normal and acceptable

April 03, 2011 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You forgot the mosts important word: "yet""

actually, the looping of the universe is infinite but always returns to the direction of the truth

if you weren't alive in the late seventies, you should go back and do some reading

our society was much more accepting of homosexuality back then

April 03, 2011 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Many states, localities and countries, including this one, have enacted legislation supportive of the lgbt community ( recent national example is the repeal of the so-called DADT. Are you speaking of anti-marriage referenda, and generalizing to the whole of political activity? Sloppy.

April 03, 2011 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am, indeed, pretty sloppy, Robo, but, in this case, it was your lack of comprehension that is the problem

I was referring to direct votes, not legislature actions

no referendums endorsing the gay agenda

April 03, 2011 3:43 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

"it's an effort to use governmental authority to force everyone to think, speak and act as if homosexuality is normal and acceptable."

Well, then, you simply don't understand what is at stake. What is at stake is whether gay people are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as straight people. That is the "gay agenda." What you choose to think and say about gay people is your own business, however misguided and hateful it may be. In the long run, hearts are not changed by governmental action; but the government has a responsibility to treat everyone with respect and to treat them equally.

April 03, 2011 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is at stake is whether gay people are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as straight people."

you are, inappropriately, defining people based on their behavior

and then saying, based on that delineation, that all deserve the same rights

but they have the same rights already

no one has the right to have their behavior ignored by others

a world where all behavior is treated equally is not one any of us would want to live in

April 03, 2011 11:58 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

"a world where all behavior is treated equally is not one any of us would want to live in"

I agree. Behavior that is hurtful to others should be shunned and, in appropriate circumstances (murder, theft, etc) be illegal. But consensual sexual activity between consenting adults (when they are not cheating on anyone else to whom they have made a commitment) hurts no one.

April 04, 2011 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

government has a responsibility to treat everyone with respect and to treat them equally.
Maybe respect, but not equally. Govt. doesn't do that now. That is living in a dream world.

April 04, 2011 1:20 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

"I have a dream today....."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

April 04, 2011 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I understood you. The topic on this thread, though, is legislative action on an anti-discrimination bill. You overgeneralized from a non-relevent set of data.

BTW, didn't California vote down the Anita Bryant bill decades ago?

April 04, 2011 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1977, Florida enacted § 63.042(3) due in large measure to Anita Bryant's homophobia:

“Fla. Stat. § 63.042(3) - No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”

Florida was the only state in the Union with such a law on it's books, and it enforced that law from 1977 - 2010. Finally in 2010, this law was found to be unconstitutional by trial and appellate courts in Florida. The trial judge ruled that the “best interests of the children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption," and the appellate court agreed. Even Florida Department of Children and Families stipulated “that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.”

Also in 1977, the Log Cabin Republicans formed to fight attempts to bring similar legislation to California.

In 1978, California defeated Prop 6, which was an attempt to ban gays and lesbians, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights, from working in California's public schools. A week before the 1978 election, Ronald Reagan published an editorial in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in favor of defeat, which said: "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this." Prop 6 was defeated on November 7, 1978, 58.4% to 41.6%.

April 04, 2011 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Thank you.

I lived in Florida during Anita Bryant's heyday. Her campaigns had a lot of influence on my thinking at the time.

April 05, 2011 5:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome, Robert.

Less than a month after California voters defeated Prop 6, Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were shot dead by Dan White. Dan White then committed suicide less than a year after being released from serving 5 years of his 7 year prison term for voluntary manslaughter.

April 05, 2011 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so the point was made

America was much more gay-friendly in the 70s

looks like David's arc may be more like a penduluum

April 05, 2011 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So tell us how many of these United States were gay-friendly enough in the seventies to allow same-sex marriages, civil unions, or same-sex civil partnerships. Then tell us how many gay "spouses" were covered by their partners' health insurance policies back then so you can prove to us that "America was much more gay-friendly in the 70s" than it is now.

April 06, 2011 8:28 AM  

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