Some Lawmakers Warn of Unintended Consequences as Maryland OKs Transgender Equity Bill; Americans Are Losing Faith in Honest Government

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Maryland's legislature on Thursday passed a transgender equality bill that will ban discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations, one of the first of such statutes in the nation.

Some lawmakers objected, warning that women and girls could find biological males in their bathrooms, and employers may be exposed to civil rights investigations if they decline to hire a transgender person.

Still, the measure easily passed the Democratic-led House of Delegates, 82-57. The "Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014" had already passed the Maryland Senate. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it.

A number of delegates defended the bill as a needed protection for a vulnerable population.

These people are "born in a body that doesn't align" with their gender identity, said Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat who is running for governor, who beseeched her colleagues to stop with the jokes, hypotheticals and "perpetuation of fear" in the debate over the rights of transgendered persons.

Opponents, including lawmakers from the Eastern Shore and Washington and Frederick counties, said their constituents were legitimately concerned about men following girls into female bathrooms, showing up in women's department-store dressing rooms or in girls' locker rooms at the pool. "My constituents think we have lost our minds down here by passing bills that change, or try to change, nature," said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democrat from Baltimore.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, a Democrat from Prince George's-Anne Arundel, noted that the law exempts private facilities such as local pools if they provide places that are the functional equivalent for transgender persons. That could include a "shower curtain and a rod," she said. …