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Whether a hate crime or not, community must support victim of McDonald's beating

Until more of the facts are known, it is impossible to say for certain whether the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis in a Rosedale McDonald's was motivated by her sexual identity — she is a transgender woman — and whether the two women accused in the assault should be charged with hate crimes.

But the attention the case has received — a video of the beating has been watched hundreds of thousands of times online — demands a response beyond the criminal justice system. McDonald's seems to get this; the restaurant chain issued a statement condemning the beating, and the owner of the Rosedale franchise fired the person who took the video. But Baltimore County officials so far don't seem to understand that their community is now being held up worldwide as home of bigotry.

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State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger is limited by his role in how much he can say, but that does not prevent Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz or other county officials from standing up in support of Ms. Polis. They need to send an unambiguous signal that all are welcome in our community and that intolerance will not be tolerated.

Likewise, this incident should prompt the General Assembly to revisit its failure this year to pass a transgender anti-discrimination law. Although it would not have changed how this incident unfolded or how it will be handled in the criminal justice system, such a statute would make clear that there is nothing wrong or strange about transgender people and that they should be treated the same as everyone else.

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