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Maryland anti-discrimination measure stalled

A bill aimed at protecting Maryland residents from discrimination based on their gender identity has become stuck in the state's General Assembly. Voting on the bill has yet to be allowed by the Senate President, but supporters of the initiative are lobbying the legislator to open the bill for consideration in Maryland's coming legislative session.

The bill, known officially as SB 212, was introduced to the General Assembly in early 2012, but has not been cross-filed in the Maryland House of Delegates due to fears that the issue will not be voted on in the Senate. If passed, the SB 212 would protect individuals in Maryland from employment discrimination based on their gender identity. It would also prohibit similar discrimination in housing, licensing, commercial leasing and public accommodations.

An organization known as Gender Rights Maryland has criticized the Senate President's response to the proposed bill, who reportedly told the measure's supporters that he "only [has] time for one gay bill this session." The Senate President is likely referring to another proposed bill aimed at promoting marriage equality, which is currently set to be discussed in the state General Assembly.

A representative for Gender Rights Maryland published a statement on the organization's website, stating that the Senate President's failure to support the bill "remains the overwhelming roadblock" to its passage. Another official with Gender Rights Maryland says the organization wants the Senate President to understand the difference between transgender and gay individuals, adding that several lawmakers have pledged to help push the bill through the General Assembly.

The official also pointed out that, according to recent polls, 63 percent of Maryland residents support prohibiting discrimination against transsexual individuals. She said she was hopeful about the bill's future: "Last year, people didn't understand it; now I think they do."

Source: MetroWeekly, "Gender Rights Bill Stuck in Senate," John Riley, Feb. 2, 2012

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