- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two Republican lawmakers announced a petition effort Tuesday to put before voters a bill recently passed in Maryland that bans discrimination against transgender individuals and includes a controversial provision permitting people to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.

Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican, and Delegate Kathy Szeliga, Baltimore County Republican, said they hope to put the measure, dubbed the “bathroom bill,” on the November ballot. Their signature-gathering drive went live on Mr. Parrott’s petition website, MDPetitions.com, on Tuesday morning.

Maryland’s legislature this year passed the “Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014,” which increases protections for transgender individuals by banning discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

But opponents of the legislation, one of the first such statutes in the nation, said the law was so loosely written it would permit men to legally enter women’s restrooms and other private spaces for voyeuristic or criminal purposes.

“It opens up the door that anyone could claim to be a woman, and in theory, a guy could use the facility,” Mr. Parrott said, adding that business owners could face lawsuits if they seek to prevent anyone from doing otherwise.

MDPetitions.com has had success in the past moving controversial bills to the ballot box. The group secured enough signatures to challenge laws passed during the 2012 General Assembly session that legalized same-sex marriage, provided in-state tuition for certain illegal immigrants, and enacted the state’s congressional redistricting plan. Voters, however, rejected the challenges in all three cases.

The group last year failed to gather enough signatures to put to a referendum a bill passed by the General Assembly that abolished the death penalty.

To bring a bill to a referendum, the state constitution requires voter signatures equal to 3 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election, currently 55,736 signatures. A third of those, 18,579 signatures, must be collected by May 31.

“As Marylanders find out what this bill actually does, they are very disturbed by it,” Mr. Parrott said.

California last year became the first state to adopt a transgender bathroom equality law, but that measure has faced questions, with opponents also mounting a drive for a ballot initiative.

California’s secretary of state in February said opponents did not collect enough signatures to bring the issue to a referendum.

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