Maryland Senator Katherine A. Klausmeier's (D-Baltimore County) office confirmed on Tuesday, April 5, that the Senate's Rules Committee is about to meet. The Rules Committee, according to multiple sources, is expected to take action today on House Bill 235, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act.
[UPDATE @ 1:10 PM: According to Equality Maryland executive director Morgan Meneses-Sheets [and later confirmed by Klausmeier's staff], the gender identity nondiscrimination bill has made it out of the Rules Committee.
"It got sent out of the Rules Committee, so it will go to the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Certainly the leadership and the support of the LGBT caucus members has absolutely made a difference this entire week that we've been working on this," she says, "and we certainly are very thankful that they made that public statement."
Meneses-Sheets also commends the work of Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) and, out gay Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery).
"We've literally had thousands of emails and hundreds of calls made to get it out of Rules...," she adds, "and we are very fortunate to have wonderful allies within the General Assembly who have been working on this. This was a very difficult hurdle, yet we also know there's been a lot of hard work here in Annapolis to continue to support this bill.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, but every single step should be celebrated -- especially this one -- since a lot of people counted us out and said it was dead. We're going to keep on fighting and keep it moving," she tells Metro Weekly.]
Advocates of the measure, including the bill's lead sponsor, Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel, Prince George's), have expressed frustration that the bill was sent to the Rules Committee and not the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee as expected and as had happened in past sessions.
Talking to Metro Weekly about the committee assignment, Pena-Melnyk said, "It is a tremendous, gross disrespect to the community because [Senate President Thomas "Mike" Miller is] marginalizing a group of people and basically saying, 'You don't matter, you don't count.'"
While Equality Maryland has been fighting hard to get the legislation passed, opponents of the legislation also include members of the LGBT community who argue that the bill is inadequate because it only provides some, not all, protections by excluding "public accommodations" on a state level.