Bigotry loses big in Montgomery

A referendum that was designed by the anti-gay industry as a template for overturning legal protections for transgender people across the nation has been thrown out and will not appear on the ballot in Montgomery County in November. The county’s amended civil rights law, unanimously passed by the County Council last November, can finally go into effect.

It’s unlikely that the people of Montgomery County would have voted to repeal this law – it represents basic decency and fairness, after all – but there can be no doubt that the campaign waged by its opponents would have subjected the transgender community – already extremely vulnerable – to a horrific, sustained assault of dehumanization, lies and violence. I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying this, having witnessed the behavior of the nasty little group behind the referendum for several years now. There is nothing they would not do or say to bend the world to their will.

I could not be happier or more proud of my friends in Montgomery County who worked so hard for this result. They have made an enormous difference in the lives of not just their own community members, but for transgender people everywhere. This was the point of the spear for this new AGI strategy, and it just hit a very hard wall. Let me just repeat: Today’s ruling by the high court is the final word on the fate of the referendum. Congratulations, all! You rock.

The press release appears in full below:

MARYLAND HIGH COURT THROWS OUT REFERENDUM PETITION THAT ATTEMPTED TO OVERTURN A TRANSGENDER ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW

(Annapolis, September 9, 2008) – Today, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that an inadequate referendum petition to block a unanimously enacted transgender protection law may not go on the ballot for the November general election, and the law must be allowed to go into effect. The high court reversed the decision of a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge, who had previously ruled that the referendum effort to overturn the law should be allowed on the November ballot, despite the acknowledgment that the petition did not carry the legally required number of signatures. Today’s ruling by the high court is the final word on the fate of the referendum.

“The bottom line is that the court said a petition sponsor shouldn’t be allowed to cut corners and circumvent legal requirements to get a referendum attacking minority protections on the ballot,” said Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “We are very happy that this duly enacted law can take effect and protect a vulnerable group of Montgomery County residents.”

NEWS RELEASE

www.lambdalegal.org
www.equalitymaryland.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On November 13, 2007, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed an act adding gender identity to the county’s civil rights law in order to address discrimination against transgender individuals. A group calling itself Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) sought to collect enough signatures on a referendum petition to block the law from going into effect. Lambda Legal, together with counsel retained by Equality Maryland, represented concerned Montgomery County registered voters who opposed CRG’s flawed referendum effort to set back the clock on civil rights in Montgomery County. Lambda Legal and Equality Maryland argued that the number of signatures needed to put the referendum petition on the November general election ballot was insufficient and that the Montgomery County Board of Elections over-counted purported signature entries in violation of detailed statutes that safeguard the referendum process.

“This long overdue, crucial law is all about assuring that unchecked bias is not allowed to inhibit our neighbors’ abilities to make a living or rent a home, and as a Montgomery County resident, I breathe a sigh of relief that this campaign to roll back anti-discrimination protections is now over,” said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland. “While we were ready to make our case to the voters of Montgomery County, it is far better that our transgender brothers and sisters be spared the rhetoric that the referendum proponents have subjected them to over the past year. Equality Maryland thanks Lambda Legal, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the law firm of Arnold and Porter, and the many volunteers who came together to assure that our laws in Montgomery County are on par with the 100 other jurisdictions nationally that protect residents from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel, and Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney, are on the case for Lambda Legal. Jonathan Shurberg, lead attorney for Equality Maryland, argued the case. The case is Doe et al. v. Montgomery County Board of Elections.

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Equality Maryland: Dan Furmansky dan@equalitymaryland.org
Lambda Legal: Tika Milan tmilan@lambdalegal.org

Equality Maryland is Maryland’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, focused on making life better for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens of Maryland. Equality Maryland works to secure and protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Marylanders by promoting legislative initiatives on the state, county and municipal levels and educating the public about the issues faced by our diverse community.

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