Every year our state legislators spend 90-days meet with advocates, debate policy and pass laws affecting each and every citizen of Maryland. FreeState Justice was there too, fighting to make sure our voices were heard and the laws under consideration were inclusive and truly improved the lives of every person of the LGBTQ community.
A huge thank you to the volunteers, partners, advocates, and legislators who helped draft legislation, attended our Lobby Days in Annapolis, sent emails, and made phone calls to assure progress this session. Due to the hard work of advocates and supporters like you, our partner organizations, and legislators, we claimed five significant victories in the 2019 General Assembly session. By lending your voice and supporting us at FreeState Justice, together we’re able to keep working to improve the lives of every member of the LGBTQ community in Maryland.
Read about this session’s victories below or on our policy advocacy webpage here.
Sponsored by Senator William Smith, Jr. and Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais, this legislation updates state family law to strengthen parental protections of same-sex couples and streamline the second-parent adoption process. Additionally, complex procedures and bureaucratic technicalities were eliminated to simplify the process and reduce the financial burden of unifying and recognizing families and ensuring children’s safety.
Why it matters:
For the children of LGBTQ+ and other diverse families, formal recognition that your parent is your “legal” parent is a lengthy, at times invasive, and expensive process. Families must currently invest substantial amounts of time, resources, and know‐how to have the legal system confirm what they already know: they are a family. Formal recognition of a parent’s “legal parentage” protects all aspects of a parent‐child relationship such as ensuring that their child will be able to access that parent’s health insurance, Social Security, and other benefits as the parent’s beneficiary; whether the child will inherit after their parent’s death; or whether the parent’s relationship with their child will be legally recognized in states other than Maryland.
Senator William Smith, Jr. and Delegate Sara Love sponsored legislation to allow self-attestation of gender and introduce a gender neutral option for state-issued identification.
For those who do not identify into the categories of “male” or “female” will be provided an alternate gender marker option of X on state-issued identification. The policy also allows for self-attestation of gender on state issued identification.
Why it matters
For people do not identify into the categories of “male” or “female,” an alternate gender marker of X allows for more accuracy for people who are not represented by “M” or “F,” and gives a privacy option for anyone who does not want to disclose their gender.
A driver’s license or state identification card that has an incorrect gender “outs” a transgender person in any situation where they need to show their card, such as travelling, applying for jobs or schools, entering any public establishments that require photo ID, or obtaining any other benefits that require proof of identity. State-issued identification that does not match a transgender person’s lived gender can expose them to a variety of negative outcomes, such as unnecessary scrutiny by law enforcement, denial of housing, employment, health or public benefits, and verbal harassment or physical violence.
In order to display the most accurate information an applicant will be able to self-report their gender without requiring verification from a medical or social service provider which often presents a barrier to accuracy for many individuals. Individuals themselves know best what gender marker is appropriate to display during official interactions.
During the annual budget appropriations conference committee included $1 Million in Gov. Hogan’s proposed budget for the Ending Youth Homelessness Act grant. The Ending Youth Homelessness Act, previously passed in the 2018 legislative session, set up a grant program through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to expand housing and support services for youth experiencing homelessness.
Although the funding is dependent on compliance of reporting and commitment to administer the program, it provides significant additional resources to address youth homelessness.
In Maryland, there are at least 2,425 “unaccompanied homeless youth,” or youth aged 24 and younger who are unstably housed or homeless and not with a parent or guardian, according to the 2017 Youth REACH count. There are youth experiencing homelessness in every county of our state. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and youth of color are also dramatically overrepresented. The count has shown that the levels of youth homelessness that exist in Maryland is much higher than previously identified.
Homeless youth are at a higher risk of violence and exploitation and mental and physical health problems. These facts accompanied by the existing barriers to education and employment makes it much more difficult to overcome homelessness and become self-sufficient.
This legislation sponsored by Senator Clarence Lam and Delegate Terri Hill allows health care practitioners to prescribe live-saving HIV treatments in a confidential, non-stigmatizing manner with or without parental consent.
Despite enormous progress on treatment of HIV, Maryland’s infection rates and risk of incidence remains one of the highest in the country. Public health experts share that specific communities are bearing the brunt of these risks: communities of color, LGBTQ people, and youth in our state.
HIV diagnoses among Marylanders under the age of 25 have grown every year for the past 20 decades. For youth in particular, half of all HIV infections go undiagnosed, dramatically increasing the risk of infecting others. All this despite the advent of treatments that can prevent transmission of HIV and allow those living with HIV to live full, healthy lives. This policy was supported by numerous practitioners and public health experts and has had a positive impact in the seventeen other states that have made this change.
As legislation is adopted from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, on improvements to education in Maryland, FreeState Justice strongly urged the Commission ensure LGBTQ youth issues are included in discussion of the cultural competency of highly qualified and diverse teachers and leaders.
Information about LGBTQ students’ identities, the issues they commonly face, and strategies for building inclusive and affirming spaces must be included in our understanding of strong cultural competency to ensure these students thrive in every Maryland school. Providing new and seasoned teachers and leaders with appropriate training and resources for LGBTQ youth culturally competency ensures they can reach every student.