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Group launches effort to place Maryland transgender rights bill on 2014 ballot

The group that led a referendum effort against legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012 in Maryland has launched a petition drive against a bill that will prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

MDPetitions.com announced a petition drive against Senate Bill 212 in Annapolis on Tuesday.

The bill is aimed at giving transgender individuals the same protections given to those who might face discrimination based on race, sex, color, creed, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, age or disability.

Supporters of the measure, which was passed by the General Assembly in March, argue people should not have to worry about losing jobs or being denied housing because of their gender identity.

But opponents, who have called the bill "the bathroom bill," say the measure was so loosely written that it would permit men to legally enter women's rest rooms and other private spaces where they are not currently allowed, a point contested by the bill's supporters.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. It would take effect on Oct. 1.

Before Del. Neil Parrot, R-Hagerstown, created MDPetitions.com, only one referendum to overturn a state law had made it onto the ballot in 20 years, a 1992 attempt to overturn Maryland's abortion law. That attempt failed.

But in 2012, MDPetitions.com led petition drives that placed three measures passed by the General Assembly on the 2012 ballot: legalizing same-sex marriage, in-state tuition for some immigrants who are here illegally, and the state's congressional redistricting plan.

All three measures were upheld by the voters.

Following those decisions by voters, MDPetitions.com in 2013 opted against a push for a referendum of O'Malley's controversial gun-control legislation that the General Assembly passed.

A petition drive is costly, gun-control opponents noted last year when the decision against a petition drive was made.

MDPetitions.com is already taking signatures on a page set up on its website. In order to get Senate Bill 212 on the 2014 ballot, the group will need 55,736 signatures, or 3 percent of all votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

The measure was passed by the General Assembly in March. The House of Delegates voted 82 to 57 in favor of the bill after the Senate approved the bill by a 32 to 15 vote.

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