Transgender protection bill faces steep climb in Md. Senate

Legislation to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender people faces an uphill challenge in the Senate in the final days of the General Assembly session, the chamber’s leader said Wednesday.

The measure, which passed the House last week, appeared stalled in the Senate. But a group of openly gay members of the House pressed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) to move the bill out of the Rules Committee to allow for a vote.

“We believe that this bill is absolutely necessary for the civil protections of a subset of Marylanders who are most vulnerable to discrimination and prejudices,” wrote the House members, including Montgomery delegates Anne Kaiser (D), Heather Mizeur (D) and Bonnie Cullison (D). “We are simply asking for full consideration of this bill.”

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s), would provide protections in the areas of employment, housing and lending. Montgomery County and Baltimore already have broader local protections.

Sen. Brian Frosh, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the measure would have a hearing Thursday and that he would bring it up for a vote before the session ends April 11. Frosh has voted for similar bills in the past, he said, but has concerns about the definition of gender identity in the legislation. He also said current law extends such protections to transgender people. Frosh predicted a very close vote.

Miller agreed to move the bill, he said, after hearing from his House colleagues, but added, “At this late date, I don’t anticipate any progress on this bill.”

Miller said he would not support the measure if it comes to the floor. “I don’t like discrimination of any kind, shape or form, but I think we have other bills that need to move forward.”

Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.

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