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Quirk to Propose Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill

The proposal, spurred by the Chrissy Polis assault, will look similar to a bill passed by the Howard County Council in December.

Councilman Tom Quirk said Monday he will introduce a gender identity anti-discrimination bill in the Baltimore County Council later this month.

The bill will be similar to a law passed last month by the Howard County Council, Quirk said.  Proponents of the law say it was spurred by a highly- publicized attack on Chrissy Polis, a transgendered Rosedale woman, last year.

Quirk, a freshman Democrat from Catonsville, said the primary aim of the bill is to protect transgendered workers from discrimination and firing because of their sexual identity.

"It's my strong belief that the only thing that should matter is someone's qualifications for a job," Quirk said.

The bill will also contain language dealing with the use of public accommodations, including public restrooms. The language in the bill will allow employers the flexibility to set their own rules on the use of restrooms, Quirk said.

Quirk said he expects to introduce the bill by the end of January. Councilwomen Vicki Almond and Cathy Bevins, both Democrats, are likely to cosponsor the legislation, he said.

Mark Patro, president of the Baltimore County chapter of  Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians, said the issue of addressing potential discrimination arose after the highly-publicized assault of Chrissy Polis.

The transgendered woman was assaulted in a Rosedale McDonald's in April. A woman and teenage girl were both convicted of the assault, which was recorded on video and uploaded to Youtube.

"That was the incident that got most people thinking about this," said Patro, a Perry Hall resident.

The incident involving Polis was handled in the courts but the county is unable to investigate discrimination on the job, Patro said.

"There are issues all the time with transgendered people being fired from their jobs," he said.

Baltimore County is one of four counties exempted from a 2001 state law, according to Matthew Thorn, chair of the Howard County Chapter of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Thorn's organization worked with the Howard County Council to that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender identity.

Housing and public accommodations are also covered in the law. Violations of the law are addressed through the county's human rights laws.

"Transgenders are the last social group that it's OK to discriminate against," Sharon Brackett, board chairwoman of Gender Rights Maryland , told Columbia Patch in December. "A law like this sets the tone that it's not OK to discriminate."

Brackett spoke last month of some of the struggles faced by the transgender community.

Nearly one half of individuals who openly identify as transgender are fired from their jobs or can't find employment at all, she said.

Of those who find employment, almost 90 percent are harassed on the job.

"And here's the big one: 41 percent of trans have either considered or attempted suicide," Bracket said, according to Columbia Patch.

Howard County's bill is similar to laws passed in Montgomery County, Thorn said.

Patro said he expected the bill would also contain language protecting transgendered residents from discrimination in using public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels.

"One thing that is up in the air is who can use a public bathroom," said Patro.

Quirk said his bill will cover bathrooms as a public accommodation.

The issue of bathroom use helped derail a similar bill proposed in the Maryland General Assembly last year.

The proposed law did not contain language regarding bathroom use, but several legislators linked the issue to the bill during floor debates. The law ultimately failed.

Thorn said he expects the bill will return this year. This time, public accommodations will be included, he said.

Lorna D. Rudnikas February 01, 2012 at 04:25 AM
No it is the one "accommodation" you have inadvertently or purposely avoided and it is the one "accommodation" that must be addressed beforehand....lest you bring it forth after the fact and try to grandfather it in. Concerns regarding predator opportunists is not being "used" as a fear factor.....honey child, it is a very real and very legitimate "concern" factor.
Mark Patro February 01, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Anita, you continuously divert this conversation. Men are not protected if they appear effeminate. Women are not protected if they appear masculine. And people who identify as gay or lesbian are not protected. I have personally met with the Human Relations commission to discuss which events of discrimination they are able to investigate and which they are not. You are wrong when you say there are already protections in place. You want to convince others that there are protections in place so that we are left defenseless when we have to go to court to defend ourselves.
Mark Patro February 01, 2012 at 08:36 PM
If these rapes were not committed by LGBTs (or straight me posing as transgender women) then why would it be appropriate to bring them up at a hearing that focuses on protections for LGBT people?
Mark Patro February 03, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Beat a transwoman and get released early. Where is the respect in our system? http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/02/02/md-juvenile-authorities-seek-release-of-youth-charged-in-transgender-beating-case/
Tim February 03, 2012 at 02:46 AM
yikes

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