POLITICS
03/15/2013 11:10 am ET Updated Mar 15, 2013

Maryland Senate Committee Votes Down Bill That Would Have Banned Transgender Discrimination

A state Senate committee in Maryland dealt a tough blow to transgender rights Thursday by voting down a bill that would have banned gender-identity discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.

The committee voted 6-5 to narrowly defeat the Fairness For All Marylanders Act Of 2013, which would have added "gender identity" to the law that right now prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status and sexual orientation, The Washington Blade reports.

The bill may have been doomed when a senator who supported it was moved off the committee and replaced by one who voted against it, Metro Weekly writes. That switch was made by Senate leadership in order to pass a wind energy bill, the paper notes.

The transgender anti-discrimination bill also heard testimony from more than a dozen opponents throughout the past few weeks, including from Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg, an anti-gay rights advocate who said in his testimony that transgender people are "suffering" from a "delusion" and should be given counseling, Think Progress notes.

Although Maryland passed same-sex marriage on Election Day in November, for at least the past three years, the state has consistently failed to pass a law that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity.

A similar bill proposed last year -- after Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, called for greater protections for transgender people -- also died in a Senate committee before it could reach the floor for a full vote.

In 2011 and in 2010, similar measures also died before they could reach the governor's desk, according to The Washington Post.

The bill's advocates say people who are transgender suffer harassment and discrimination in many sectors of life. A 2011 study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that rates of unemployment, homelessness and harassment are significantly higher for transgender people than for the general population.

But although 16 states and Washington, D.C., have laws against gender-identity discrimination, there is currently no federal law against it.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw most employer discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has languished in Congress since it was introduced nearly 20 years ago.

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