Maryland lawmakers are considering numerous bills this legislative session that affect the state’s LGBTQ+ community.
“Maryland tends to have more LGBTQ-friendly legislation on the docket this legislative session in comparison to many other states,” said Michele Schlehofer, who is on the board of Maryland’s chapter of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. “Most of the legislation seems to be increasing protections for LGBTQ+ youth in schools.”
In a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore said, “We are very clear that this is going to be a welcoming and a loving community for all Marylanders.”
“We’re seeing some of the things that are taking place around the other, around the other states where frankly they are, they are leading with hate and discrimination. That is not going to be Maryland’s posture,” Moore said. “The voice of the LGBTQI+ individuals are, are well-ingrained within our administration.”
Here are seven bills that would affect the LGBTQ+ population that are being considered before the legislative session is expected to adjourn April 10.
The Trans Health Equity Act would require Medicaid, starting in 2024, to provide coverage for “gender-affirming treatment” that is medically necessary for “transgender, nonbinary, intersex, two-spirit, and other gender diverse individuals.”
Under this bill, gender-affirming treatment is defined as “any medically necessary treatment consistent with current clinical standards of care prescribed by a licensed health care provider for the treatment of a condition related to the individual’s gender identity.” Some treatments that are not currently covered by Medicaid, but would be under this bill, include hair alteration, voice modification surgery, fertility preservation services, and revisions or reversals of prior treatments.
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Democratic Sen. Mary Washington, who represents parts of Baltimore city and county, introduced the bill. She said the changes are “key to shutting a critical gap in health care for transgender Marylanders.”
“We have some of the largest rates of assault and discrimination against transgender Black Marylanders,” Washington said. “If their gender and who they are seen as is closer to our sort of traditional notions of what a man and a woman looks like, it makes them less vulnerable to this type of violence and harassment.”
The Birth Certificate Modernization Act also looks to broaden access to transition services by repealing the requirement that a licensed health care practitioner authorize issuing a new birth certificate for someone who wants to change their sex designation. Under the bill, introduced by Del. Stephanie Smith from Baltimore, requests to be designated as male, female, nonbinary, other or unspecified would go through the Maryland Department of Health.
Another bill, introduced by Sen. Jill P. Carter from Baltimore, focuses on ensuring transgender, nonbinary and intersex individuals are not discriminated against within the state’s correctional facilities. The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act would ensure prisoners are placed in housing that aligns with their gender identity.
The bill specifies that a prisoner’s housing preference cannot be denied because of their “anatomy, past or current physical characteristics, history or lack of gender-affirming medical treatment, or sexual orientation.”
Lastly, a bill introduced by Delegate Jared Solomon of Montgomery County would require that single-occupancy public restrooms have gender-inclusive signage.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Del. Lily Qi of Montgomery County introduced a bill that renames the Commission on LGBTQ Affairs to the Commission on LGBTQIA+ Affairs, adding letters for intersex, asexual, agender, aromantic and additional identities. The bill also increases the number of commission members from 15 to 21 and requires that age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic diversity among other factors be considered when selecting members.
Del. Gabriel Acevero is a sponsor of another bill that seeks to establish a Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention that would develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate crimes. One of the members would be pulled from the Pride Center of Maryland, according to the bill.
“I’m fortunate to live in a state that has passed significant and impactful LGBTQ+ rights and equality legislation that makes not just living in Maryland a possibility for our community but [gives us] the ability for us to thrive,” said Acevero, who represents Montgomery County. “But I also recognize that there’s more work that we can do.”
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which champions LGBTQ issues in K-12 education, has thrown its support behind a bill that would allow students who are bullied due to their sexual orientation or gender identity to decide whether their parent or guardian is informed of the incident.
According to the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health conducted by The Trevor Project, 55% of LGBTQ youth identified school as an LGBTQ-affirming space while only 37% identified their homes as an LGBTQ-affirming space.
“Unfortunately, not all LGBTQ+ youth have supportive home environments. Not all LGBTQ youth are out to their families and sometimes if they come out to their families, there are increased risks of abuse, victimization and homelessness,” Schlehofer said. “By providing a clause in there giving the victim control over whether that information is disclosed to the parent, [it] helps protect the victim from secondary victimization that could potentially occur at home.”