Next week Equality Maryland, along with key legislative partners and community groups, will formally announce the introduction of two bills, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act and the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (SB116).

Lead Sponsors of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act are Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Del. Ariana Kelly.  The bill would prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and credit.  Lead sponsors of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act include Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Kumar Barve.

This morning Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, explained the smart strategy behind how the two bills are being introduced.  “We purposely had each bill start and move first in a different chamber.  We want to be able to tell the important story of each bill.  That’s why the marriage bill is first in the Senate, the gender identity bill is first in the House where we have such an amazing champion and a very, very favorable committee composition.  So they each have their moment in the sun, then move over to the other chamber with the momentum of an initial passage.”The marriage bill was introduced this week in the Senate.  Bill co-sponsor Sen. Raskin serves on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee were both the gender identity and marriage bills will be heard.

The gender identity bill will be introduced next week into the House by Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Del. Ariana Kelly.  Described, as “a tireless champion”, Del. Pena-Melnyk is on the House Government and Operations Committee that the bill will be referred to. “The composition of that committee is incredibly strongly in favor of this bill,” said Meneses-Sheets, so EQMD expects the bill to be voted out of committee and receive a vote on the House floor in late February or early March.

Meneses-Sheets considers Del. Kelly to be an especially valuable co-sponsor of the gender identity bill because she is a Montgomery County delegate and “Montgomery County has been such a leader in providing gender identity protections in the state” and it is important to illustrate “how that’s been beneficial and why that’s the right thing to do.”

In response to my question “Will the non-discrimination bill get the same sincere backing as the marriage bill, or is it vulnerable to being used as a bargaining chip to get the marriage bill passed,” Meneses-Sheets said

We put a lot of thought into everything, from who should be sponsors to where we should start bills, which should start in which chamber. That was a very strategic conversation because we are passionately committed to both bills.  So this strategy that we’ve created on the timeline of each having a different chamber in the beginning is aimed at insuring that that happens.  So we are genuinely very committed to both.

Our field team has gone from 2 people at the end of December to 12 people who are field organizers working every day.  Every one of them work on both issues.  We have a legislative plan with our target swing votes for both bills that we track and are monitoring and working on every day.  So the commitment and the work behind that commitment – not just the words but also the actions – every day are aimed at both.  That’s another reason too why when we got the gender identity bill back this week and were circulating it for co-sponsors, we didn’t want to have them introduced on the same day.  We want to be sure they each have their proud push, that they each have their very important story told about the need for the bill.

EQMD has taken the extra step of having NGLTF’s Transgender Civil Rights Project train the entire staff on how to best message the gender identity bill.

EQMD and legislative leaders are speaking optimistically about both bills, but we can expect the opposition to throw the kitchen sink at them both.  Besides National Organization for Marriage and probably bishop Harry Jackson, EQMD expects heat from the Maryland Catholic Conference, a new affiliate of NOM and the Family Research Council as well as another organization that has grown from the effort to oppose the passage of the 2007 Montgomery Co. gender identity ordinance.  

All hands on deck!  Let’s help Equality Maryland get the job done!

Next week Equality Maryland, along with key legislative partners and community groups, will formally announce the introduction of two bills, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act and the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (SB116).

Lead Sponsors of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act are Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Del. Ariana Kelly.  The bill would prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and credit.  Lead sponsors of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act include Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Kumar Barve.

This morning Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, explained the smart strategy behind how the two bills are being introduced.  “We purposely had each bill start and move first in a different chamber.  We want to be able to tell the important story of each bill.  That’s why the marriage bill is first in the Senate, the gender identity bill is first in the House where we have such an amazing champion and a very, very favorable committee composition.  So they each have their moment in the sun, then move over to the other chamber with the momentum of an initial passage.” (more…)

Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer

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