THE BLOG
03/28/2014 03:26 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Maryland Notches Another Victory for LGBT Rights

In a major victory for dignity and equality in the State of Maryland, yesterday the House of Delegates followed the Senate in passing the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014. This new law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, housing, and employment. This was a major piece of unfinished business in my agenda -- similar protections were enacted in Baltimore City in 2002 when I was mayor, and I issued an executive order in 2007 that added gender identity and expression protections for state employees -- and I will proudly sign the bill into law.

On one hand, it is remarkable to reflect on the rapid pace of progress in achieving equality for the LGBT community in Maryland, and across the country. It was just two years ago that I signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the forward-thinking citizens of Maryland, along with Maine and Washington State, became the first to defend marriage rights at the ballot box. The year 2012 may be remembered as the tipping point. In 2013, the Supreme Court issued a pair of landmark decisions on marriage equality and LGBT rights. In recent months, like dominoes, favorable court decisions on marriage equality have been issued in rapid succession in states as varied as Utah and Oklahoma.

That's the good news. But on the other hand, not every loving family with same-sex parents lives in a state where their legal rights are protected. And many transgender Americans live in the 32 states where they can still lawfully be denied a job or a home solely on the basis of their identity. That is not right. And those laws need to change.

What gives me hope is what I've seen and heard during debates on LGBT equality in Maryland. Our representative democracy works best when everyone's views are heard and respected. Many Senators and Delegates acknowledged their struggle to understand the issues from the perspective of the LGBT community. But they also expressed the fact that their constituents' testimony moved them. They understand what we understand: To govern effectively is to continually evolve and to keep your heart and your mind open to learning something new and to seeing the world through another's eyes. That's what happened in Maryland. And that's why many Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- came together to support the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the Fairness for All Marylanders Act.

Although I wish yesterday's achievement had happened sooner -- and spared many transgender Marylanders from the indignity of discrimination -- I am gratified that Maryland's non-discrimination laws will be stronger now than they've ever been, and that we will protect the dignity of all families more than we ever have before.

But I am not satisfied, and I won't rest until similar protections are enacted across the country. The federal government has yet to enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Twenty-nine states lack explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 32 states lack protections for the transgender community. The march of progress must continue.

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