Advocates in Maryland who backed the successful passage of the first statewide legal protections for transgender citizens in housing, employment and public accommodations this legislative session don't consider their work complete.
The Maryland Coaltion of Transgender Equality says opponents of the bill are pushing misinformation, possibly in an effort to collect enough petition signatures to put the legislation up for a referendum vote -- just as was accomplished by opponents of Maryland's same-sex marriage bill. (Voters ended up approving same-sex marriage, anyway.)
Del. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who helped lead the petition drive to put same-sex marriage to a referendum vote through his website MDpetitions.com, currently has a "Bathroom Bill Referendum Survey" up on his site, though he has not said whether he will file a petition.
Michael Hill, who works for MdPetitions.com, said the group has not yet made a decision on whether or not to petition the bill to referendum.
Opponents of the legislation have dubbed it the "Bathroom Bill" because they argue it "allows men in the women's room, and vice versa, if they simply claim to identify as the opposite sex" -- as Parrott's survey puts it.
Supporters have said the bill was drafted to avoid abuse and that there have been no such problems in localities -- such as Baltimore -- that already ensure such protections.
Now, the Maryland Coalition of Transgender Equality says it has launched a new education campaign around the Fairness for All Marylanders Act -- the bill's official name -- "aimed at demonstrating the broad support for fairness for transgender Marylanders and clearing up misconceptions about the bill."
It's called the Stand for Fairness campaign. Led in part by Equality Maryland, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, the campaign features a FAQ on the bill and a video of transgender allies in Maryland.
The campaign will also focus on what the coalition says is widespread support for transgender protections among Marylanders. It cites a Goucher Poll from last month that found 71 percent of Marylanders polled supported adding gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination laws, while 20 percent opposed doing so.
"The Stand for Fairness campaign will give our broad base of supporters the opportunity to share all the reasons why they support fairness for transgender Marylanders, as well as put a face to the issue by elevating the stories of transgender people facing discrimination," said Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's executive director, in a statement. "This year Maryland's elected officials stood for fairness by passing The Fairness for All Marylanders Act. Now we're working to make sure Marylanders in every corner of the state understand the bill."
Others provided their own statements.
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, said he welcomes the campaign after hearing "a lot of incorrect and misleading statements being made" during debate on the bill in the House.
Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat, called the bill "common sense law" that Marylanders support.
Jenna Fischetti, of TransMaryland, said that as a transgender woman, it's important to her that all Marylanders understand the bill is about the "ability to get a job, have a roof over my head, or take my son to dinner at a restaurant without being denied basic rights just because I'm transgender."
The coalition is asking people in Maryland to sign a pledge in support of transgender residents. If interested, you can do so here.
Elsewhere in the world:
- Speaking of petitions, the international gay rights group All Out says it gathered more than 74,000 signatures on a petition it sent to the International Olympic Committee, urging the governing body to "ensure that future Olympic host countries do not have discriminatory laws on their books," as reported by the Associated Press.
The request follows widespread attention paid to Russia's law banning gay "propaganda" during the recent Winter Games in Sochi.
- OUT Magazine has launched its eighth annual listing of the 50 "most influential LGBT voices in American culture." (Ellen DeGeneres is No. 1, duh.) Check out the full list here, as well as OUT's sneaky little way of turning 50 into 58: its Coming Up Fast list.
- We'd imagine most people on the OUT list are probably having a pretty good week. Then there is Bryan Singer, director-producer of the "X-Men" franchise, who came in at No. 28 on the list. On Wednesday, Singer was accused of sexually abusing a male teenager in a federal lawsuit in Hawaii.
Singer's attorneys have called the allegations from Michael F. Egan of Nevada, who alleges to have been sexually assaulted by Singer when he was 17 in 1999, "completely without merit."
Egan's attorney, Jeff Herman, is the same attorney who has represented plaintiffs in sexual-abuse cases brought against Kevin Clash, the Baltimore County native and former voice of Elmo on "Sesame Street." Clash has denied all the charges against him, as well.
- We're pretty sure that nobody likes filling out their taxes, even if they like the refund check(s) they get. And lesbian and gay couples are no exception. As MSNBC put it, gay couples still face "Tax Day challenges" in this "post-DOMA world."
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