A "gender identity" plan for coed showers, locker rooms and other public facilities already implemented in one suburban Maryland county could be going statewide, according to alarmed members of a pro-family organization.
Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government says a measure is pending in the state legislature that is similar to Montgomery County's permissive ordinance and now presents "one of the greatest threats to privacy, safety and security that Maryland residents have ever known."
"The proposed law adds a broadly defined category of 'gender identity' to the state's existing anti-discrimination law," the organization said in an alert.
"Because the bill's broad definition of 'gender identity' includes 'expression and behavior,' men are not required to have undergone a sex change operation."
Ruth Jacobs, chief of the organization, said, "The effect of this bill is to give special rights to men who want to dress like women, but completely disregards the safety of vulnerable women and children.
"Restrooms and showers will be opened up to cross-dressing or female affirming men, thereby allowing undressing in front of women and children in a woman's locker room," she said.
"We believe that the bill should be dropped," she said. "Even the senator sponsoring the bill admits that he does not understand gender identity issues."
The pending proposal, HB474/SB566, which has begun working its way through the state House already, would impose fines for "discriminating" in public accommodations and allows imprisonment and fines for housing violations.
The bill provides a "private cause of action" giving any cross-dressing employee the right to sue employers in state court, which could result in judgments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the citizen group said.
MCRG said the proposal would force individuals, employers, religious institutions, roommates, schools and public accommodation facilities "to ignore reality and disregard a person's legitimate 'assigned sex at birth.'"
"Johns Hopkins Hospital stopped sex reassignment surgeries because it does not cure Gender Identity Disorder, yet HB474/SB566 enforces ideology over opinions of respected medical professionals and the needs and concerns of citizens," said a 10-point MCRG fact sheet.
The measure also would protect a circumstance that changes, the group said.
"How can employees and citizens know what 'gender choice' is being made or even which pronouns 'should be used?'" the group said. "'Appearance, expression and behavior' can change from moment to moment and with each different situation."
Significantly, the opposition group points out, it could create dangers.
"With the bill's vague wording, all an adult male has to do to gain legal access to facilities normally reserved for women and girls is to indicate, verbally or non-verbally, that he has a sense of being female at the moment," the organization said.
"If HB474/SB566 passes, the use of sex (male or female biology) in such diverse areas as all-girls’
schools, school games, sports teams, bathrooms, locker areas, showers, or in sleeping and living areas in
homes, prisons, and shelters will become a crime and subject to compensatory damages up to $400,000, as
well as punitive damages," the organization said.
"In Montgomery County, women were afraid and outraged when a man in
a blue dress went into female locker areas in a health club. He would have been protected under this proposed
law," the group said.
It was the Montgomery County measure that originally had enraged citizens' groups. Nearly 27,000 county residents signed petitions to allow voters to decide on the county's similar plan when it was adopted by elected officials.
The officials, however, spent more than $80,000 on legal fees to obtain a court ruling that the petition signature number provided to organizers was incorrect, so the initiative ultimately was not put before voters.
"Bills such as these will require schools as 'public accommodations' to begin tolerance training. In
Montgomery County, children are taught that transgenderism is doing anything outside of the gender norm and
that one can change their body to match the way they feel. There is no mention of the risk of steroids, that
gender identity confusion is a disorder or that some transsexuals regret their decision. No one has studied the
effect on a child’s developing gender identity of having a kindergarten teacher begin the school year as a male
and end as a female. HB474/SB566 plays Russian roulette with vulnerable children," the group said.
According to state records, the bill's goals are to begin "prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity with regard to public accommodations, housing, and employment; prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in commercial leasing; … (and) making specified remedies and procedures regarding discrimination applicable to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."