Opponents of a proposal to protect transgender people from discrimination in Baltimore County urged the County Council on Monday to defeat the measure, saying they fear the bill could have unintended consequences.

At a council meeting, about 15 people spoke against the legislation, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, the workplace and public places. The meeting was the second one in a month that drew a crowd interested in the issue.

Some speakers on repeated concerns aired at the last meeting, saying that if the bill passed, men would use women's restrooms.

"I have not had good sleep in the past few weeks because of this bill," said Tina Siegert, a Catonsville resident. "The thought of a man being in a [women's] restroom just unnerves me."

Some speakers said they worried the bill would lead to schools teaching children about homosexuality. Several said they opposed the legislation on religious grounds.

"This bill is a steppingstone in causing children to sin," said William Howard, a Perry Hall resident and former Baltimore County councilman. Advocates for gay and transgender rights, he said, "will eventually come here and ask for more liberties that would be considered outrageous today."

A number of the legislation's supporters testified at a council meeting last month, when Catonsville Democrat Tom Quirk introduced the bill. But on Monday, only one person spoke in favor of the measure, Mark Patro of the group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"Since I was 14 years old, I've had to listen to this kind of talk," Patro told council members, referring to comments speakers made about gay and transgender people. "They beat on us constantly."

Patro said after the meeting that supporters plan to attend a Feb. 14 work session where the council is scheduled to discuss the bill.

Some who testified Monday said they would work to defeat County Council members who support the bill.

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat and one of three council members who co-sponsored the legislation along with Quirk, said after the meeting that a conservative group targeted her last week by running "robocalls" about the bill in her district.

Bevins said she has discussed the legislation at length with opponents, but that her stance hasn't changed.

"My name's not coming off the bill," she said. "I don't think anybody should be discriminated against."

alisonk@baltsun.com

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