Sunday, April 10, 2011

State Gender Identity Bill Moves Toward Senate Vote

The Maryland state gender identity nondiscrimination bill has made it through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and is now headed for debate and vote on the floor. This poor bill has been gutted, stalled, and sidetracked on its way to becoming law -- if it passes in the state Senate it will still have to go back to the House of Delegates, which already voted to pass it, for approval of some wording changes.

Here's how The Blade put it.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland State Senate voted 7-4 on Saturday to approve legislation that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders in the area of employment, housing and credit.

The vote to approve the bill and send it to the Senate floor came after 90 minutes of debate and after the panel defeated three hostile amendments that supporters said would have killed the bill had they passed.

One called for removing from the bill the provision banning job discrimination against transgender people and another would have removed the bill’s lanaguage protecting transgender Marylanders from housing discrimination.

Another would have stricken a provision allowing people seeking redress under the law to take private legal action against against an employer, landlord and other parties accused of engaging in discriminatory practices prohibited under the law.

The committee voted unanimously to approve what supporters called a friendly, nonsubstantive amendment that modifies the bill’s definition of gender identity. Md. trans bill clears crucial committee vote

There is some controversy surrounding this bill. First, the shower-nuts are of course up in arms about the idea that it would be illegal to discriminate against transgender people. We have heard that the president of the Citizens for Responsible Government was shouting during the Committee debate and had to be told by a committee member to be quiet.

The second controversy is more serious. The "public accommodations" wording was ripped out of the bill in the House, reducing it to a miniscule fraction of what it started out to be. While transgender people are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and some other special situations, they are not protected from discrimination in visiting public places and partaking of accommodations offered to the rest of the public. This includes bathrooms, which is why our Brave Leaders were intimidated into removing the term, but it includes a whole lot of other situations that most of us take for granted. Though it is a big deal to offer some protection in certain formal situations, the bill really does not address the kinds of daily discrimination that transgender people encounter every day. There is disagreement within the LGBT activist community about whether the bill is worth passing at all with this wording removed. While some say it is better than nothing, comprises an important step forward, and can be modified later, others see it as a gutless and empty bill that leaves individuals with non-mainstream gender identities helpless. Further, the cowardice of our state politicians in caving to the demands of shower-nuts is seen by some as deplorable.

I don't see it in any news story, but was able to obtain the new wording that has been added to the bill. The Senate has defined gender identity as:
a persistent bona fide gender-related identity and the manifestation of that identity in gender-related appearance regardless of the individual's assigned sex at birth.

One criticism of the bill was that gender identity is such a vague concept that the law could not be applied reasonably, but this definition seems to nail it down.

The Blade has more details.
Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT group leading efforts to pass the trans bill, said House leaders would expedite a vote to accept the amendment. She said the biggest hurdle left for the bill is its debate and vote on the Senate floor, expected to begin Monday on the final day of the legislature’s 2011 session.

Opponents were expected to offer amendments along the lines of those defeated by the committee, she said, and any substantive amendment approved by the Senate would result in the death of the bill. There would be no time left for the House to go back and vote on such an amendment, Meneses-Sheets and others familiar with the legislature said.

The bill could come up before the Senate as early as Monday morning but might be brought up as late as Monday night.

The bill is not guaranteed to pass in the Senate. The new wording was developed in order to persuade some fence-sitters to vote for it. It sounds like we'll know tomorrow. If it passes in the Senate it will go back to the House with the new definition, where it is almost sure to pass again.


Anonymous Thank you, Men in Heels! said...

ALBANY, Ga. — Women wear them as a matter of fashion. But men, yeah men, will don 4-inch stiletto heels to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to raise awareness and money in the fight against sexual abuse at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The occasion is the second annual race at Deerfield-Windsor School’s track sponsored by Lily Pad Sane Center Inc., a shelter for sexually abused women and children.

“The men have sponsors and have been asked to raise $500 each for the race,” said Caitlyn Cooper, Lily Pad’s development officer.

“Last year we had 92 men walk, this year 125 have signed up.”

While the participants wobble, grimace from the pain and sort of walk the track, observers can hoot and holler for their favorites.

This year, there will be another chance to view the walkers on a red carpet as they to strut their stuff before the audience. The audience can then vote with cash to decide just who has the prettiest legs.
Coming back to try for a second win in the prettiest legs contest, Porsche D’Lite (Andy Martin) probably will get some competition from former Dougherty County Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas.

Cohilas said, “The whole thing is a riot of fun. Win prettiest legs? I’ll just be happy not to break my ankle.”

Cohilas prosecuted people charged with physically abusing women and children while in the District Attorney’s Office. He knows the underlying serious cause the fun Saturday will support.

“This is a great event. It helps raise awareness of what happens to women and children in our county and throughout southwest Georgia on a daily basis,” Cohilas said. “The abuse is not talked about, but it is there every day.”

Walk organizers want everyone to come out in support of the event and the fight against abuse. It will be a chance for women to take a look at men who have no idea how to walk in heels generally giving their all for a good cause.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A few dozen men seeking to raise awareness for sexual assault violence against women tried to walk a mile in their shoes Friday — literally.

Among the participants — some burly and others bearded — in the fourth annual “Walk a Mile in her Shoes” event at the University of Alaska Anchorage was the head of Alaska State Troopers, Col. Keith Mallard, who slipped out of one of his red suede peep-toe shoes during the walk.

“I had a blowout,” Mallard said sheepishly. “It didn’t hinder my progress any. I just had to pull to the side and get a tire change.”

The men teetered precariously along the mile-long route, trying to raise money for a local nonprofit that supports sexual assault victims. Donations to Standing Together Against Rape will go toward banishing sexual assaults and other acts of violence against women.

The men were game, even if it meant nearly tripping over their own stilettos.

Vashon Hilliard, whose work involves helping the disabled, stuffed his feet into a colleague’s black patent leather pumps. The shoes were a snug fit, but Hilliard didn’t let that stop him.

“I just decided it’s for a great cause, and why not?” he said.

“Men want to make a public statement that they detest sexual violence,” said Keeley Olson, STAR’s program manager. “A lot of them have told me that they walk for their sisters, they walk for their mothers, they walk for their daughters. They walk because they care about women.”

April 10, 2011 4:22 PM  

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