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County Council to Act on Transgender Protection Bill Tonight

After initial reading and public hearing, bill is eligible for a vote this evening.

Howard County's transgender residents could find themselves more protected by law after tonight's Howard County Council meeting.

A bill that would amend the county's Health and Scoial Services Title of the Howard County Code is eligible for a vote tonight, according to council Administrator Stephen LeGendre.

The amendment would include gender identity and expression as a classification protected against certain types of unlawful, discriminatory practices, including housing and employment.

The bill was introduced by Council Chairman Calvin Ball, Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Terrasa and members Mary Kay Sigaty and Courtney Watson on Nov. 7.

A public hearing on the proposal was held Nov. 21, and the bill's third reading is today, making it eligible for a vote, LeGendre said.

"Three things could happen tonight," he said Monday. "The bill could be adopted, it could be amended and adopted, or it could be tabled."

All four of the bill's sponsors confirmed their support for the legislation following the Nov. 21, hearing, according to Explore Howard.

"The hearing drew more than 50 supporters of the bill, which aims to prevent transgender and gender nonconforming persons from being discriminated against with regard to employment, housing and public accommodations," Explore Howard reported.

Opponents are concerned about "ambiguous" language regarding public accommodations and what that means for the use of public restrooms, Explore Howard reported.

They are also concerned that the council's bill might be a "knee-jerk" reaction to the April beating of a transgender woman in a Baltimore County McDonald's restaurant, according to Explore Howard.

Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman, was badly beaten by two people after she used the women's restroom at the Rosedale McDonald's. Video shot by a restaurant employee shows Polis being beaten and kicked until she appears to have a seizure, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Woodstock resident Catherine Hyde, the parent of a transgender child, said passing the bill is important to the safety of transgender residents.

"When a transgender uses the bathroom, the person at risk is the trans," Hyde said Monday. "Whether they go to the bathroom of their birth gender or their identity gender, they are the ones at risk — this is about their safety."

Hyde, who serves as the transgender network coordinator for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Howard County, said she wants her daughter to be healthy and happy, and be able to secure a job and housing when she finishes college.

"Howard County prides itself on doing the right thing," Hyde said. "And here's an opportunity to do just that."

The Howard County Council meets in legislative session at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.



hmj December 05, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Another wacky use of public time and money. Council members involved are once again pandering to a few far left loons and clearly do not reflect the will of the people. Inventing special rights and protections are not necessary and they only serve to open the door to a range of unintended consequences and costly legal challenges.
MG42 December 05, 2011 at 08:00 PM
I totally agree with hmj. This is legislation in search of a problem. It will simply breed unintended consequences.
Joy December 06, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Well here we find the first two people that would discriminate and think it is okay. They probably make good use of the "N-WORD" on a regular basis.
Nikki December 07, 2011 at 11:21 AM
My concern is particular to the 'public accomodations' ie., bathrooms....there are WAY more child sex offenders in the population than there are transgender people. It's not far fetched to think that sexual predators would use the ruse of being transgender and using bathrooms of the opposite (of birth gender) sex to gain access to potential victims.
Brook Hubbard December 07, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Nikki, you do have an honest concern but one that is a bit unfounded. 1) Just because a few new people will be using public accommodations they previously would not, does not mean there will be an increase in danger. That's no different than people who thought desegregated bathrooms would bring in more criminal acts and disease. 2) Sexual predators will go where they want to go, regardless. It's not up to the law to protect bathrooms from the presence of possible sexual predation; it's up to the guardians to make sure their children are safe. Do you regularly send your children into unsafe areas alone? Or do you usually escort them unless they're old enough and/or the area is safe? ~Could~ a sexual predator pretend to be transgender to gain access to potential victims? Sure. But they could just as easily pretend to be a police officer, a doctor, or a religious authority... all things that ~have~ occurred. We can't live our life assuming that just because there's a possibility we should negate rights to a group of people to prevent that possibility. One bad apple should not ruin the bushel.

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