A group of conservatives have launched an effort to challenge Maryland’s recently passed law (SB 212, the Fairness for all Marylanders Act) protecting transgender people from discrimination. They have begun collecting signatures to challenge the law at the ballot in November.
The effort is led by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R), who chairs the MDPetitions.com platform. His website falsely identifies the legislation as a “bathroom bill,” claiming that it “will require businesses to open up their public facilities… so that men can use the ladies’ room and women can use the men’s room.” The petition rejects the existence and significance of transgender identities, asserting, “ Each person is born with a specific sex that, regardless of personal, emotional, or psychological feelings to the contrary, is maintained throughout their lives.” Allowing trans people to use the bathroom in accordance with their identity somehow undermines privacy and “opens up women and girls to serious threats to their safety.”
These claims confirm the findings of a 2013 study that in debates about transgender equality, opponents inconsistently define gender in different contexts. By focusing on bathrooms, they divert attention away from the fact that the law also protects transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, and credit. They provide no solution for where transgender people should go to the restroom and trans men are largely ignored entirely.
Maryland became the 18th state to pass such protections for the trans community and California recently established similar guidelines for students. In January, the Maine Supreme Court also ruled that trans students deserve equal access to bathrooms in schools, but there is no documented case to substantiate the claim that transgender people are somehow a threat to others. That hasn’t stopped conservatives from trying to advance a different narrative; indeed, the Pacific Justice Institute continues to seek out girls willing to say they were made “uncomfortable” by the presence of trans women sharing a facility so that they can generate more publicity for trans-demonizing myths. Conversely, transgender people actually experience rampant discrimination and fear for their safety in vulnerable spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms.
Parrott’s site also helped collect signatures to challenge Maryland’s marriage equality law in 2012. Though the referendum qualified for the ballot, voters upheld the law with 52 percent approval. A March poll from Goucher College found that 71 percent of Maryland voters supported the transgender nondiscrimination protections.