Carroll County Times

House passes Senate's transgender rights legislation

The House of Delegates passed legislation Thursday to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

The House voted 82-57 to pass Senate Bill 212, pushing back attempts to change the bill passed by the Senate on March 4. The bill now heads to Gov. Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature.

The measure would ban discrimination based on gender identity in labor, housing, employment and public accommodations.

Supporters argued that people should not have to worry about losing jobs or being denied housing because of gender identity.

Opponents said the bill gave transgender individuals too many rights and went further than civil rights measures passed in recent years, such as the one that legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland.

"What this bill does is change nature," said Del. Emmett Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County. "My constituents think we have lost our minds down here."

The House Health and Government Operations Committee voted 14-8 Tuesday to send the bill to the House floor.

Amendments proposed Thursday would have clarified language opponents said was so loosely written it would permit men to legally enter women's rest rooms and other private spaces for voyeuristic purposes.

One amendment, proposed by Del. Tony O'Donnell, R-Calvert, would have added language to the bill saying a person could not enter "a place of public accommodation" to commit an illegal activity or for "the furtherance of a prurient interest."

But Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George's, said that was already illegal and O'Donnell's amendment was "redundant."

In the committee, Dels. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena; and Robert Costa, R-Deale; voted against the measure. Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who represents part of western Anne Arundel, voted for the bill.