Lawyers Maneuver Against Transgender Referendum
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Lawyers involved in a challenge to the referendum on overturning the county's new protections for transgender people were in court last week to talk about the scope and timing of the case. The issue has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg, and arguments are tentatively scheduled for mid-June.
Jonathan Shurberg, representing proponents of the protections, has challenged the Board of Elections' decision to let voters decide in November whether the law should stand. He has questioned the validity of signatures on petitions submitted to the board and the process the board used to certify them.
"We believe we have information that will end this thing if the judge agrees with our interpretation," said Shurberg, who represents Equality Maryland, a gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.
Shurberg said Maryland's election law requires that a petition signature include all elements of an individual's name as it appears on the voter registration rolls. If a Montgomery voter registers using his or her middle initial, for instance, Shurberg said the petition signature must also include either the initial or the middle name. Shurberg and his team have reviewed thousands of signatures, and at last count, he said, nearly 4,200 signatures did not meet that standard.
Opponents, led by Citizens for Responsible Government, have said they followed the standards set by the board, which certified the more than 26,000 signatures, 1,800 more than the group needed to get on the ballot.
Kevin Karpinsky, the attorney representing the county's Board of Elections, was not available for comment earlier in the week.
If Shurberg's argument fails, he said there is another batch of petitions that fall short of a separate requirement for independent verification from a so-called circulator. When opponents signed petitions printed off the Internet, he said, there was often only the signature of the signer and not the required second signature of the circulator.
The broad new protections for transgender individuals unanimously passed the County Council and were signed into law in November by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). The law prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. Opponents contend that the law would allow a transgender male, for instance, to change in the women's locker room at a health club. Proponents say current law makes exceptions for such private areas.
Arts Council Head Leaving
Theresa A. Cameron, chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, will be leaving her post next month to become membership director at Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit group.
Cameron joined the council as executive director in 1998 and oversaw its merger with the Commission on the Humanities in 2000. During her tenure, the council developed a cultural plan for the county and an arts education program and helped restructure the county's grants program for nonprofit groups.
Board President Sylvia Crowder said Cameron has been "a vital presence in the county's cultural community, and she will be greatly missed."
In her new role, Cameron will work to "help ensure that arts-friendly public policies are adopted at every level of government," according to a news release announcing her departure.
The council's board is beginning its search for a new chief executive, Crowder said, and interested candidates can request more information about the job by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.