Breaking News – Gender Identity Protection Likely in Maryland

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen

On March 27, the Maryland House of Delegates, 82-57, passed a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The same bill passed the state Senate earlier this month, 32-15. Governor O’Malley has stated he will sign it into law. Once signed, it is likely the law will take effect October 1, 2014.

Maryland will join 17 other states and D.C. in adding Gender Identity as a protected class to anti-discrimination laws. Senate Bill 212 is the “Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014” (FAMA).

Currently, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City provide protection from discrimination based on Gender Identity. FAMA will protect transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, public accommodation and employment.

Opponents claim that the law could invite abuse by sexual predators seeking to prey on women and children in public restrooms. Supporters note that there is no evidence to suggest that such protections will result in increased attacks in women’s bathrooms, and rely upon the experiences in the other states that have enacted laws protecting Gender Identity.

Employers should train supervisors and co-workers, and anticipate new challenges in human resources in the coming months. While it is hard to argue that protecting individuals from discrimination in the workplace based on Gender Identity is not appropriate (indeed, there is precedent for using Title VII to protect trans individuals from sex stereotyping), employers confronting the issue for the first time often have a problem not with the transitioning individual, but with co-workers. Education is essential here.

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