Public accommodations provision in Md. transgender rights bill draws outcry

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Transgender-rights supporters in Maryland are hoping that this will be the year they get a nondiscrimination law enacted to safeguard their rights in society.

But a provision involving “public accommodations” — including rest rooms, showers, lockers and dressing rooms — has drawn an outcry.

“This bill is unfair to me. I don’t want males in [female] locker rooms,” Elaine McDermott, a leader of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, told the Maryland House Committee on Health and Government Operations Wednesday.

The panel is taking up a bill that has already passed the Maryland Senate that would ensure protections for people based on “gender identity.”

The bill’s definition of gender identity is fluid itself, referring to a person’s “consistent and uniform” appearance, expression or behavior, regardless of assigned sex at birth — or “any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.”

Opponents said the law is so loosely written it will permit men to legally enter girls’ and women’s rest rooms and other private spaces for voyeuristic or criminal purposes.

The Catholic Church opposes undue harassment or discrimination against any person, but is against this bill because of its vagueness, impractical application, and attempt to “enshrine in law” the distinction between someone’s “gender identity” versus their “assigned sex at birth,” the Maryland Catholic Conference said.

“Such a distinction manifests a fundamental violation of our society’s basic understanding of the human person, and the complementarity of the sexes bestowed by nature that lies at the foundation of all human society,” the conference said.

Groups with the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality backed the bill — although those who testified Wednesday stressed unjust treatment in the workplace and their communities rather than their desire to use rest rooms that matched their public gender.

This bill “will help real people every day in Maryland,” said one supporter dressed in a purple polo shirt. “This is not an issue that’s going to go away,” said another woman who testified, with her husband, about their daughter who is now a son.

Maryland Delegate Luke H. Clippinger, Baltimore Democrat, introduced H.B. 1265 with 60 co-sponsors — a sizable portion of the chamber’s 141 members. It is widely expected to pass the chamber. “We are confident that this will be the year the General Assembly says ‘yes’ to transgender equality,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans said before she testified at the hearing.

Maryland Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican who opposes the bill, said it “is very unpopular for good reasons.”

“You send your daughter into the bathroom — maybe she’s 8 — and there’s a 45-year-old man in the bathroom,” he said. “You are exposing her to things she shouldn’t see.”

Besides experimenting with children, Maryland businesses will be unduly affected too, said Mr. Parrott. “Are they going to have to add a third bathroom,” he asked. “It just creates many, many problems, and extra cost — and really, for no good reason.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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