More than a dozen people gathered in Catonsville by 9 a.m. on a brisk President's Day morning outside the Frederick Road office of Councilman Tom Quirk to protest a proposed bill designed to protect transgendered people from discrimination.
Many carried signs opposing the bill sponsored by Quirk, who represents the 1st Councilmanic District that includes Catonsville and Arbutus, and fellow Democrats Vicki Almond ( 2nd District), Cathy Bevins (6th District) and Kenneth Oliver (4th District).
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing county laws that prohibit discrimination in housing, at work and in public places.
It comes nearly a year after a videotaped attack on Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman, at a Rosedale McDonald's, drew national attention.
Catonsville resident Allison Baird, who organized the protest, said she didn't think anyone should be discriminated against in housing or in the workplace.
Baird said her main concern was how male sexual predators may take advantage of the bill by entering women's public bathrooms.
"When you put it in black and white and make it public, it then becomes an issue of people who might want to come up and take advantage of it," Baird said. "There's already too much crime in bathrooms."
Baird said she is concerned for the safety of her daughters, Mackenzie, 10, and Madison, 6, who were at Monday's protest.
Quirk, who was not at his office, said that Howard County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City passed similar legislation in 2011, 2007 and 2002, respectively.
"No one has found any untoward issue or problem that has happened since," the first-term Democrat said when reached by phone. "I think their concerns are mostly fear, as opposed to any type of evidence or fact."
Quirk said he has communicated with the protesters by phone and via email.
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican whose 1st Congressional District does not include the Catonsville and Arbutus areas, was also among those protesting the bill outside Quirk's office.
"It's giving special rights to a group of individuals over the rights of other individuals," Harris said. "That's not the right thing to do in America."
Quirk expressed shock that the bill has created dissent from what he called a "small but vocal group."
"This bill is an anti-discrimination bill. This bill says it's not okay to discriminate against gay or lesbian or transgendered people," Quirk said. "I'm actually surprised that there's still people out there who think it's okay to discriminate."
He said he expected the bill to pass when the County Council votes on it Tuesday evening.