Tuesday, September 9, 2008

MD high court nixes transgender ballot question

Today the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state's highest court) ordered removed from the November ballot a question that would have affirmed or repealed Montgomery County's antidiscrimination protection for transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations. The court has issued a short order (PDF) , and says it will issue an opinion soon.

The ordinance (PDF) was passed unanimously last fall by the county council, the Board of Elections ruled that a citizens group called Citizens for Responsible Government (which had previously challenged the county's sex ed curriculum as too inclusive) had collected enough signatures to place it on the ballot. Voters would be required to affirm or repeal the ordinance.

The lawsuit, brought by a grassroots group called Basic Rights Montgomery on behalf of a number of voters, alleged that many approved signatures were invalid, and that the state under-calculated the number of required signatures. The trial court found the latter claim meritorious, but said the claim was time-barred. The high court presumably rejected the time-barred argument, and we'll soon see its reasons why.

I've been proud to volunteer for Basic Rights Montgomery, and am gratified by this victory. The group that sought the ballot question, CRG, has been criticized by council members for their deceptive and mean-spirited tactics, most significantly telling voters that the law would require unisex bathrooms throughout the county and representing trans people as sexual predators. Now the ordinance, which has been on the books for many months and mirrors those in cities and states around the country, can finally go into effect.

It now appears that Gaineville, FL will have the dubious distinction of holding the nation's first voter referendum on the basic civil rights of transgender people; a similar battle is going on there, with no court-ordered resolution in sight. On Gainesville, see this post from back in July at Transgender Workplace Diversity.

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