- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A measure to prevent discrimination against people who are transgender moved forward in the Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday, sparking a sometimes heated debate about how the bill would affect public restrooms.

The bill would prevent discrimination on matters relating to housing, employment, credit and use of public accommodations. Del. Kathy Szeliga contended the bill would enable male sexual predators to take advantage of such a law to attack women and girls in female restrooms. She offered an amendment to take public accommodations out of the legislation.

“It is reasonable and it is fair,” said Szeliga, R-Baltimore County.

But supporters described it as an unreasonable and unnecessary change that would make the measure meaningless, because public accommodations apply to more than just restrooms. They include public places such as restaurants, hotels and movie theaters.

“It’s like riding a Mack truck through the bill,” said Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s.

Supporters also said the bill defines gender identity as being demonstrated as “consistent and uniform assertion of the person’s gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.” Backers of the bill also pointed out that some of Maryland’s largest counties, such as Montgomery, Baltimore and Howard counties, have similar rules in effect, and those counties have not had problems.

But Del. Michael Hough, R-Frederick, said the bill was too loosely crafted. He asked, “What would prevent a grown man walking in, using a woman’s bathroom, saying ‘I sincerely held the belief I’m a woman today?’”

Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, said the amendment would take public accommodations out of Maryland’s civil rights code.

“This is a really bad amendment, not only because it guts the bill, but because it is horribly drafted, and it will entirely destroy our entire civil rights code,” Reznik said.

Szeliga withdrew the amendment, saying she would bring it back with changes before lawmakers vote on the bill. A vote could come as soon as this week on the bill, which already has been approved by the state Senate.

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