Protest Continues Against Transgender Bias Bill
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The County Council's plan to vote Tuesday on legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity has continued to spark protest. Susan Jamison, a parent and lawyer from Poolesville, organized a demonstration at the county pool in Germantown that Jamison said attracted about 40 people. The group passed out hundreds of fliers to warn residents of the consequences of the bill.
Jamison, who has been battling the county's sex education curriculum, is concerned that the legislation will mean that her 10-year-old daughter would be forced to change in a locker room next to a transgender female.
"People don't understand the problem. There will be no decency here," she said. "If you really want separate facilities for transgenders, spend the money to build them, but don't put boys with male genitals in with our naked daughters."
Jamison said she is considering a lawsuit if the council approves the measure because of substantive changes made to the bill after the public hearing.
The office of council member George Leventhal (D-At Large), who chairs the health committee, has received a mixed response from residents in e-mails. Answering Jamison's concerns, Leventhal said in an e-mail that the bill was changed to clarify that "public accommodations must be appropriate for the gender that is 'publicly and exclusively expressed or asserted.' "
Leventhal added that he could not, "absolutely put to rest your concern that girls might find themselves in a locker room or dressing room in the presence of a person who expresses or asserts herself as a woman but who still has male genitals, but based on my own sense of the prevalence of that condition in the population, I think the likelihood of that occurring is remote. For the same reason, I do not think it would be cost-effective to build a third category of restroom, dressing room or locker room facilities."
According to the bill's sponsor, council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), 13 states and the District have laws that make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered individuals. Trachtenberg said in a news release that the measure continues to have strong support on the council. The county, she said, "has historically taken the lead in protecting its most vulnerable citizens."
Schools Poll a Mystery
Parents and political leaders have been buzzing about a recent telephone poll that asked county residents their opinion of the respective leaders of the County Council and school board and their willingness to pay more taxes for school programs.
Residents reported being called at home last month and polled on several topics relating to their satisfaction with the school system and whether they might support higher taxes.
One might assume that the teachers union, the school board or the local Democratic Party might mount such a survey. But both the Montgomery County Education Association and the Montgomery County Democratic Party denied any knowledge of the poll. School system officials, in a more measured response, denied having paid for it.
Among those inquiring about the poll was council member George Leventhal (D-At-Large), who had heard from several constituents. He said the only equivocal answer came from Weast. "The superintendent said that no school system funds were used in it, but it sounded like he knew who did it," Leventhal said.
Brian Edwards, chief of staff to Weast, said in an e-mail that the school system had not paid for the poll. He offered no further comment. The identity of the polling firm was not clear.
There has been talk that School Board President Nancy Navarro (Northeastern County) might run for the seat of Council President Marilyn Praisner (D-Eastern County) when her term expires in 2010. They live in the same council district.
Navarro said she had nothing to do with the poll and did not realize it included a question about her.
"I'm just surprised that question would be asked," Navarro said. Asked her future plans, Navarro said, "I would never discount an opportunity to serve in the county in a different capacity or at the state level in a different capacity, but it would have to be an opportunity that made sense to me and my family."
Leggett Headed for India
Fresh from a successful trade mission to Israel last month, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) was scheduled as of early this week to leave tomorrow for his next adventure: India. He planned to travel with the county's economic development director Pradeep Ganguly, two other department representatives and his wife Catherine Leggett. A delegation of more than a dozen local business owners and lawyers, including Leggett's longtime friend and tennis partner Sol Graham, chief executive officer of Quality Biological, Inc., in Gaithersburg, also planned to go along.
The total estimated taxpayer cost for the four members of the county delegation -- not including Leggett's wife, who will pay her own way -- is between $25,000 to $30,000.
But Leggett's plans could be derailed by the special session of the General Assembly. Leggett has been spending significant political capital in Annapolis trying to tweak Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax plan, which would impose a top income tax rate of 6.5 percent on the state's high-end earners, many of whom live in Montgomery County. Leggett has come up with an alternative that would still increase the top rate, but by a smaller percentage.