A war of words has erupted in Montgomery County, Md., where a citizens group is nearing the number of signatures needed to force a new law granting special protections to those with “gender identity” issues to a vote of the people.
Citizens for a Responsible Government must present the signatures of 12,500 registered voters to the county’s board of election supervisors by Monday, with another 12,500 due Feb. 16. Officials said they have 10,000 and expect to meet the first deadline.
“People are energized; they really feel betrayed by their county government,” said Ruth Jacobs, president of the group leading the work on the initiative. “This issue [affects] the privacy of women and children.”
But it was her exchange with County Executive Isiah Leggett, who signed the controversial plan into law, that has heated up. In response to her concerns about the issue, he warned that she has “an obligation to state the facts.”
She had asked him to support the citizens’ right to vote on the plan because it potentially would open women’s restrooms, shower rooms and locker rooms in health clubs, schools and community pools to transsexual men.
Leggett said that was a misrepresentation, because both he and the county council have articulated the view that such facilities are not included.
“Your reading of the terms of the bill is in error ? If you are in disagreement with this, that is your right,” he told her. “However, you have an obligation to state the facts.”
So Susan Jamison, a lawyer for the citizens’ group, weighed in with a rebuttal.
“With all due respect Mr. Leggett, it is important that we clarify exactly what the issues and risks here truly are. Your assertion that Dr. Jacobs is in error when she contends that there are serious locker room and restroom issues ? is simply unfounded.
“The truth is that, unless our referendum effort is successful, any transgender could enforce his rights under this law in a court of law (in February) and, relying on the plain reading of the statute, obtain entry into female locker rooms and restrooms with little to stop him or the many who would follow,” she wrote.
She cited the “plain wording” that those providing “public accommodations” cannot discriminated based on race, religion “and now ‘gender identity.’”
“Will the county ? argue that locker rooms and restrooms are beyond the purview of its anti-discrimination law? That they are private and personal accommodations, rather than what they really are: public facilities at public accommodations?” she asked.
“It seems to me that few judges would agree in light of the many serious race and religious discriminatory practices such a holding could engender. ? Your argument that this term (private accommodations) refers to restrooms, and that restrooms are not public facilities at public accommodations, seriously threatens to engender discriminatory practices against other protected classes,” she said.
“You seem to rely on your executive policy in the enforcement of the law. Such policy does not have the same force as law and will not be binding on a court. Furthermore, any such policy could be easily changed?” she said.
She said a resolution would be for a specific exemption in the law for restrooms and locker rooms and “other places of shared nudity,” as well as a broader exemption for religious organizations. Gender identity also should be allowed to be used by employers of those working with children in day care and those people seeking to share residential housing, she said.
The new county law states, “Gender identity means an individual’s actual or perceived gender including a person’s gender-related appearance, expression, image, identity or behavior, whether or not those gender-related characteristics differ from the characteristics customarily associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
The law, when being proposed, at one point included a specific exemption for facilities such as locker rooms, but it was deliberately removed before adoption. A county spokesman earlier told WND that he didn’t think it necessary to state such issues specifically.
“It is becoming obvious that this bill will have very real and serious repercussions,” said Michelle Turner, a spokeswoman for the citizens group that has adopted the Not My Shower slogan.