Baltimore City Council Votes Unanimously to Add Gender Identity to Human Rights Code
[BALTIMORE, MD] - In a historic vote this evening, Baltimore City became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit practices based on gender identity or expression. The vote was unanimous among the 19-member Council without abstentions. Mayor Martin O'Malley had requested that the Council consider the bill, to investigate the prevalence of discrimination against transgender people and to ensure equal rights for all Baltimoreans.
Council Bill 02-0857 was introduced on August 12 at the request of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission, the City agency that enforces the anti-discrimination ordinance and investigates claims of discriminatory practices in Baltimore City. At an October 17th hearing convened by the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee, Chaired by Councilman Robert Curran, the committee heard testimony from 10 individuals in support of the bill. More than half of the testifiers were transgender people, who related their personal experiences of being the victims of discrimination due solely to their gender identity or expression. No one offered testimony in opposition to the bill.
The final vote was received with great anticipation by approximately 30 community members seated in the gallery. Councilman Curran gave a brief speech congratulating the local transgender community, and Council President Sheila Dixon generously invited the community to rise and be recognized by the Council. The Council Chambers replied with a long round of applause and congratulatory wishes.
"Tonight's vote is a great victory for the Baltimore transgender community," said Jean-Michel Brevelle, Interim Director for Free State Justice. "It is the culmination of years of effort by many transgender people and our supporters, and clearly demonstrates the goodwill and understanding that Baltimore City government has developed for the transgender community. It is also the result of forging strong partnerships and healthy alliances between community and local, state, and national organizations committed to transgender equality."
Free State Justice formed MATTER (Marylanders Advocating Towards Transgender Equal Rights) as a Board committee just over a year ago. The MATTER Committee has led the campaign to introduce and pass legislation this year to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender people in Baltimore City. Financial support for the effort came through two Equality Grants received from the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, through their Transgender Civil Rights Project, contributed technical assistance and the draft language for the bill. Local organizations including the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore; Tran*Quility; the Baltimore-Washington- Annapolis Guys; Chase Brexton Health Services, Inc.; and TransAm - a program of the Baltimore Prevention Coalition - have provided support through outreach to membership, testimony, and letters of support.
The bill now goes to Mayor Martin O'Malley for signature into law. Since the bill was submitted at the request of his Administration, the Mayor is expected to sign it. Baltimore will then join 52 other US jurisdictions that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, including the States of Minnesota and Rhode Island. A similar ordinance was most recently passed in Cook County, Illinois. Thirteen other jurisdictions have passed similar ordinances in 2002 alone.
Free State Justice
P.O. Box 13221
Baltimore, MD 21203
[email protected] http://www.freestatejustice.org