Maryland Morning
8:55 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Restroom Use Debated in Gender Identity Bill

Restrooms are at the center of a debate over a gender identity bill.
Credit Compfight
Sheilah Kast talks with Dana Beyer, Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland.

The General Assembly is considering a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment,  housing, and public accommodations.  It’s sponsored in the House by Luke Clippinger, Democrat of Baltimore City, and in the Senate by Richard Madaleno, Democrat of Montgomery County.    

"At its core, this bill is a civil rights bill for transgender Marylanders," said ​Senator Madaleno speaking to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee at the bill's hearing earlier this month.  "It is having the opportunity to get a job or keep a job.  It’s having the chance to get a place to live, or keep a place to live.  It’s about getting fair treatment in places like restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters--the things we do in our lives in order to enjoy ourselves in our downtime.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee passed the Senate Bill 212 last week on a vote to 8 to 3.  It’s been introduced in Annapolis each year since 2007—but earlier versions of the bill never got of the Senate, and   usually not out of that committee. Similar ordinances are already in place in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Howard County.   

However, some are concerned about the public accommodations portion of the bill, including restrooms.  One person who testified against the bill is Anita Schatz.  She’s a survivor of sexual assault. “This law will make it legal for anyone seeking to sexually assault another to invade what was once a safe environment for the most vulnerable, women and children.  Not just bathrooms, I'm talking about showers, locker rooms, dorms...There are sexual predators who will use the vague description of gender identity and sexual orientation to gain access to safe areas according to their sexual mood at the time.” 

The bill is expected to come up for a vote by the full Senate today or tomorrow. The House version of this bill has a hearing in the Health and Government Operations committee on March 5th.  You can read Senate bill 212 here, and the House version, House bill 1265, here.

Sheilah Kast talks about the issue with Dana Beyer, Executive Director of Gender Rights Maryland.