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The Baltimore Sun

Resolution seeks apology for slavery

Maryland would become the second state to apologize for its support of slavery under a Senate resolution that is expected to easily pass that chamber.

The resolution requires the state to express "profound regret" for its role in promoting the slave trade, but it does not call for reparations.

Last week, the Virginia General Assembly became the first state to express "profound regret" for slavery. Maryland senators voted unanimously in favor of the symbolic gesture last year, but the matter died in a House of Delegates committee.

Ronald Waters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the action was notable for Virginia, which, at one time, held one-quarter of the nation's slaves. In comparison, Maryland had a strong history of freeing blacks, he said.

At a hearing yesterday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, Geniece Albritton, an intern for Sen. Nathaniel Exum, the bill's sponsor, reminded members that slavery did more than force people to work.

Slaves, such as Frederick Douglass, who was born in Maryland, did not know their ages or dates of birth. Douglass was separated from his mother as an infant, and did not know his father.

Exum, a Prince George's County Democrat, said that he was "optimistic" about a different outcome for the apology this year, but declined to comment on whether he was "more optimistic" than he was a year ago. A version of the bill has been introduced in the House.

Melissa Harris

Transgender rights bill heard

Lawmakers heard testimony this week about a bill to extend state civil rights protections to transgender people.

Sponsored by Del. Adrienne A. Jones and Sens. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and Lisa A. Gladden, the bill would add "gender identity and expression" to the state's anti-discrimination statutes. The goal is to prevent bias in employment, housing and public accommodations, among other venues.

"I think it's an important civil rights issue," said Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat and the speaker pro tem. "Discrimination in any form is unacceptable."

Nine states and the District of Columbia include some protections for transgender individuals.

Dr. Dana Beyer, a retired eye surgeon who ran unsuccessfully last year for the House of Delegates in Montgomery County, testified Wednesday before the House Health and Government Operations Committee, that the stigma transgender individuals face in their day-to-day lives is unacceptable.

"We are seriously correcting a mistaken sexual assignment made at birth," she said. " ... All we are asking is when we play by the rules we are not subject to discrimination."

Jennifer Skalka

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