By Brian Witte, The Associated Press
10:49 PM EST, January 26, 2012
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said Thursday the civil rights group supports legislation in Maryland to extend rights to transgender residents.
Jealous spoke at a national conference on rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the 24th national conference on LGBT equality.
"This striving for inclusion is not new," Jealous told a crowded convention room at the Baltimore Hilton.
Under Jealous, the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched an equality task force for the LGBT community. The Maryland measure would extend rights relating to employment and housing to transgender residents.
Last year, legislation that would have protected transgender people from housing and employment discrimination passed the House of Delegates, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
About a week after the legislative session adjourned in April, an attack on 22-year-old transgender woman at a McDonald's restaurant in Rosedale highlighted the issue again.
First Lady Katie O'Malley, who also attended the conference, told a crowd outside the convention room where Jealous spoke that "cowards" prevented same-sex marriage legislation from passing in Maryland last year. The measure cleared the Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates.
"We didn't expect the things that happened to the House of Delegates to occur, but sadly they did, and there were some cowards that prevented it from passing," she said.
Still, she told the crowd she and her husband, Gov. Martin O'Malley, are hoping the votes will be there this year.
The governor has made same-sex marriage legislation a priority this session.
Katie O'Malley, who is a judge in Baltimore District Court, also told the crowd that religion should not play a role in determining state laws relating to civil rights.
"We're all very diverse and that's what makes us so strong, but religion should never play a part in what the laws of our state are, and that's what we're trying to convey to religious leaders who are opponents of the bill," she said.
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