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Third Maryland county to vote on transgender discrimination law

Should a recently proposed bill pass through the County Council, Howard County would become the third county in Maryland to pass legislation adding gender identity issues to employment discrimination law in the state. Montgomery County and Baltimore already have similar laws. The change would add another element to employment discrimination laws that employers would need to be aware of, especially if those instances lead to legal recourse.

The legislation stemmed from a presentation by a group called the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in October. The new bill will be proposed at a legislative session on Nov. 7. Proponents of the legislation expect little opposition and a vote should be held in early December of this year.

The bill would allow persons that feel discriminated in the workplace to seek legal recourse in courts. The bill would go beyond employment, however, and also protect transgendered persons in their search for housing.

Right now, 15 states and the District of Columbia have laws that aim to protect transgendered persons from discrimination in the workplace, according to a news report. Maryland is not among them. But the same group pushing for Howard County legislation also wants to lobby the General Assembly for similar protections around the nation in 2012.

The new legislation proposed in Howard County defines gender identity as an identity or physical appearance that an individual assumes, without regard to their assigned gender at birth. PFLAG, as the advocacy group is also called, aims to end discrimination for people that identify themselves as transgendered persons including but not limited to, harassment, hiring discrimination and lower wages.

The public will have an opportunity to discuss the new legislation at a scheduled Nov. 21 open meeting held by the County Council.

Source: baltimoresun.com, "County Council aims to make gender identity a protected class," Lindsey McPherson, Oct. 27, 2011

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