A Second Life: The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act Unexpectedly Clears the Rules Committee

A Second Life: The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act Unexpectedly Clears the Rules Committee

Last week, many began digging a grave for House Bill 235, The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act.
When HB 235 passed the House of Delegates with a landslide 86-52 favorable vote, on March 26,2011- advocates turned their eyes hopefully towards the Senate. If the bill passes the Senate, such sanction will be law. A few days later, expectations were quickly dashed when it was learned that President Miller sent HB 235 into the  Senate Rules Committee, rather than immediately allowing a hearing in Judicial Proceedings. Bills are historically sent to the Rules Committee to face imminent death. With the Senate’s legislative session ending on April 11th, prospects looked far from positive to get the bill out of the Rules Committee and into a Judicial Proceedings’ hearing.
Equality Maryland, Maryland’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group, rose to the occasion. Working, as per usual, overtime, they managed to coordinate hundreds of calls and emails asking the Senate to give HB 235 a fair chance.
On March 31st, the seven LGBT caucus members wrote President Miller an open letter asking for the bill to be passed out of the Rules Committee and into Judicial Proceedings.

Much to many’s surprise, on the morning of Tuesday, April 5th, The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act passed from the Rules Committee. Now on its way to Judicial Proceedings, many celebrate and attribute this unprecendented step-by-step success to extensive public pressure. The bill’s first hearing is on schedule for this Thursday at 1pm. It is widely expected to pass out of Judicial Proceedings and onto the full Senate for a final vote.

HB 235 is an extremely controversial piece of legislation, and not only for the usual bigoted reasons one might expect. The act, if passed, will provide protection for transgender, genderqueer, and other nonnormative-gender-conforming individuals in the areas of housing, employment, and credit. Similar versions have failed to pass a total of four times. In its fifth attempt, Equality Maryland hoped that by removing “public accommodations” from the bill’s protections, it could declare a victory.
Numerous trans-individuals, activists, and allies have cried foul play at this move. They declare that this caters to the conservatives hyperbolic and absurd gospel of hate; which preaches that by allowing equal public accommodations, you open the door for things like child molestation in public spaces. This logic is impossible to explain exactly because it is utterly illogical. Falling prey to ultra-conservative whims is feared to set a dangerous precedent for other states. Secondly, many say that accepting such incremental legislation is exactly like condoning the proposal for civil unions rather than demanding full marriage. Groups like Equality Maryland have refused the second-class notion of civil unions, saying that LGBTQ folks shouldn’t be allowed anything less than equality. These tactical contradictions point to the familiarly quoted hierarchies between rights for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals continuously placed over those of transgender/genderqueer communities. Furthermore, many trans-rights activists and allies state that by discluding public accommodations from this legislation, they are actually making it explicitly illegal for transgender and genderqueer folks to have access to places like: restrooms, restaurants, shelters, hospitals, and numerous other public spaces.

In the lead-up to this legislative session, Equality Maryland has been accused  of ignoring  and refusing to work with many trans-rights individuals and groups, like: Trans Maryland and Trans-United. EQMD has also been pervasively known to censor confrontational comments from spaces like their public facebook page.
The harmful road winds both ways though, as many false accusations have been thrown at EQMD, such as: having no trans-individuals on their staff and only representing transfolk who are young, white, affluent, and recently transitioned. These divisive in-fights and degrading comparisons, on who is more trans than another, damage our LGBTQ communities far more than any law the government could dream to pass.

Prospects look far more positive for the passage of The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. If it does pass, many wonder if EQMD will hold to their word and seek for public accommodation protections in the close future.

In a hierarchically constructed world, there is much to be said about fighting for everyday rights and protections.

Yet, where is our imagination on what we could achieve? It is being usurped in strives for assimilation and our pickets against one another.

In response to HB 235 clearing the Rules Committee, Dana Beyer, and transgender activist and local politician, stated that, “There’s an important lesson here. You can be a marginalized community, but if you firmly and politely lobby hard, you can get your message across. ”

Is that the lesson that we actually want to learn from all this?
A wiser realization is that if the LGBTQ community repeatedly silences each others’ voices and fights divided- we will be conquered... or perhaps, more likely, we’ll merely tread water.

We do not have to ask for the right to live our lives.... especially not politely.

 

Please see our past coverage on HB 235 in: The Senate Stalls Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act and Victories, Obstacles, and Contentions: The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act.
Stay tuned for our continual coverage on the act’s breaking news, as well as an upcoming expose on the LGBTQ community’s recent fights and in-fights surrounding same-sex marriage and HB 235. 

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Corey Reidy has been an Indyreader collective member since the start of 2009. And.. she adores it with all her heart. When Reidy isn't editing, writing, interviewing, or other Indyreader-centric organizing, she works to do other forms of radical activism -- including, but not limited to, organizing/being a board member of Hollaback! Baltimore. If she's not organizing, Reidy is most likely reading, biking, or practicing/studying yoga (of which she adores and will 100% go to bat to defend and promote).