Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

April 30, 2014

Problematic

Subject Md. ‘bathroom law’ to a referendum

Although supporters of what has come to be known as the “Maryland bathroom law” scoff at suggestions predators will invade public restrooms, we believe a petition against the law will garner a lot of support.

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 expands protection for transgender individuals in Maryland. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he intends to sign the bill into law.

Proponents of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act believe the law an important piece of civil rights legislation that will stop discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public places, which includes hotels, restaurants, theaters and sports venues. It includes an exemption for religious organizations, private clubs and educational institutions.

We fully support the ban on discrimination. At the same time, we believe the provision in the law permitting transgender individuals to go into an opposite-sex bathroom is problematic.

“It opens it up to predators, not necessarily transsexuals, but predators who will take advantage and go into the opposite-sex bathroom,” said Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington County), who is chairman of the group calling for a referendum on the law.

Supporters of the law disagree. “Delegate Parrott’s misleading comments about bathrooms would almost be comical if he weren’t using these scare tactics to confuse the public and oppose basic civil rights protections in employment, housing, services, and public spaces,” Jer Welter of the FreeState Legal Project, a legal advocacy group that assists Maryland’s low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said in a statement on Tuesday.

There was heavy debate about the legislation this General Assembly session. The bill passed the House of Delegates on an 82-57 vote and won Senate approval by a margin of 32-15. During the debates many of the lawmakers expressed concerns about the public restroom access for transgenders.

The petition calling for a referendum is posted on the website MDPetitions.com . Under the Maryland constitution, recently passed laws can be petitioned to the ballot by gathering signatures from the equivalent of 3 percent of those who voted in the last race for governor, which this year is around 55,700.

There is enough concern about the law that a referendum is needed.

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