Thursday, March 27, 2014, marked a tremendous victory for LGBTQ Marylanders with the passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. The Act passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 82-57. It previously had passed the Senate by a vote of 32-15. It now goes to the desk of Governor O’Malley, who will sign it into law. The Act extends the protections of Maryland’s civil rights law to transgender individuals by forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit and other licensed services.
The passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act marks the culmination of over a decade of effort by LGBTQ rights advocates. “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to accomplish this….It took a lot of effort, many years of outreach and education, but it’s remarkable how much progress we’ve been able to make in Maryland, especially over the last four years,” Senator Rich Madaleno, the bill’s Senate sponsor, told MSNBC. “I am proud of my 81 colleagues who voted in support of fairness for transgender Marylanders today. Allowing people to earn a living and live without fear of discrimination is the right thing to do,” said House sponsor Delegate Luke Clippinger.
“Today is a historic day for the great state of Maryland. While discrimination against people based on their gender identity has certainly not seen its last day, we now have the tool we need in Maryland, to fight back against discrimination when it occurs,” said Aaron Merki, Executive Director of FreeState Legal. FreeState Legal is proud to have joined with Equality Maryland, TransMaryland, the Human Rights Campaign, and over 50 other organizations in the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to advance equality for transgender Marylanders that was instrumental in shepherding the Fairness for All Marylanders Act to final passage this year. To read the complete press release by the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, click here.
LGBTQ civil rights in Maryland have progressed substantially since 2001, when protection on the basis of sexual orientation was added to state civil rights law. In the intervening years, five local jurisdictions in Maryland enacted protections based on gender identity: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and the City of Hyattsville. Protections from hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity passed the General Assembly in 2005. And marriage equality for same-sex couples passed the General Assembly and was embraced by Maryland voters at the ballot box in 2012, advancing the larger marriage equality movement.
The Fairness for All Marylanders Act takes effect statewide on October 1, 2014. It prohibits discrimination by most employers and landlords in the State, service providers licensed by units of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and in places of public accommodation (such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, sports arenas, and other places of public recreation and amusement). Certain types of institutions, such as religious employers, private membership clubs, and owner-occupied residences, are exempt from the law. If you have a question about how the law applies in your particular situation, please contact FreeState Legal.