Keeping Maryland Fair: Transgender Activism

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act was an anti-discrimination bill proposed in 2014. The bill aimed to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in terms of housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations, meaning services and/or employment could not be denied based on a person’s gender identity. Though sexual orientation had been protected under anti-discriminatory laws since 2001, gender identity had been left off of the bill.

Much of the early support for the bill came from Sharon Brackett, a transgender woman and accomplished activist. Brackett is the founder and board chair of Gender Rights Maryland, an organization that did much of the work in passing the Fairness for All Marylanders Act. When the Fairness for All Marylanders Act was proposed in 2014, it gained support enough to pass through the Senate in March of 2014. It was a majority win from both Democrats (79% in favor) and Republicans (60% in favor). There was opposition and debate, however, and the main argument was that allowing people in the transgender community to choose which public bathroom to use could put women at risk to predators, as men could now walk into the women’s bathrooms with no repercussions. However, it was pointed out that many counties in Maryland such as Howard County had already implemented laws that allowed transgender people the freedom to use either bathroom, and no such incidents had been reported.

The bill passed through the senate and was signed into law in May 2014, which is a fantastic opportunity for the transgender community in the state of Maryland. However, while legal reform is an important step in ending discrimination, it is almost never the final step. It is very important that the process of passing this law is something that is talked about, especially the year. The anti-discrimination bill was passed in 2001, but the transgender community had been left off of it until 13 years later. For thirteen years after the first anti-discrimination bill, transgender people sometimes still had to choose between living as themselves and having a job. Until 2014, and still sometimes now, going to a public bathroom is a huge thought for many people. It is very important to have this perspective, and it is important to realize that the fight against discrimination is far from over.

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