Balto. Co. Council may strip bathrooms from transgender bill

Update: Baltimore County Council members say they'll consider an amendment to exempt public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms from a bill meant to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, announced the proposed amendment after an hours-long meeting on the bill this afternoon. About 60 people testified at the meeting.

Other sponsors of the amendment are Lutherville Republican Todd Huff, Middle River Democrat Cathy Bevins and Perry Hall Republican David Marks.

Opponents of the legislation have said they fear that an anti-discrimination law would allow men to sexually prey on women in public restrooms. But advocates for transgender people point out that no such incidents have been reported in areas that have anti-discrimination laws.

The bill would add both sexual orientation and gender identity to the county's existing anti-discrimination laws. It would protect people in housing, the work place and public places.

Both sides of the issue had been mobilizing their supporters to turn out to testify on the bill today.

Catonsville Democrat Tom Quirk introduced the legislation last month. Three other Democrats signed on as co-sponsors: Almond of Reisterstown, Cathy Bevins of Middle River, and Kenneth Oliver of Randallstown.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has written to Baltimore County Chairwoman Vicki Almond, saying he stands by some council member’s efforts to pass the bill. His county passed a transgender anti-discrimination law in 2007.

“As you are all responsible for the health and welfare of your county residents, let me state without hesitation that nothing untoward has occurred in Montgomery County over the last four years,” Leggett wrote. “Contrary to all the fear-mongering of the opposition, none of which has been based in fact, life in Montgomery County has improved for everyone since that time.”  

A vote on the bill is set for next week.

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