A Maryland County Councilman plans to introduce a bill Tuesday pushing local businesses to change public bathroom restrictions to accommodate transgendered men and women.
Tom Quirk, a freshman Democrat on the Baltimore County Council, said his proposed bill, the Act Concerning Human Relations, is meant to eliminate employer discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
"It's my strong belief that the only thing that should matter is someone's qualifications for a job," the District 1 representative told The Columbia Patch.
The Human Relations bill would also mandate businesses to make workplace accommodations for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community – namely in the bathroom. The bill’s language would make the restroom a public accommodation. As such, companies would be encouraged to create inclusive bathroom rules for transgender people.
Neighboring communities Baltimore City and Howard County have anti-discrimination laws. However, the bathroom provision is a controversial issue.
The issue of restroom accommodation sank the Maryland General Assembly’s proposed anti-discrimination law last year.
However, transgender bathroom use suddenly became an issue last spring when a transgender woman was physically assaulted in a Rosedale, Md., McDonalds as she attempted to enter the woman’s bathroom.
The incident made residents reconsider the issue, Mark Patro, president of the Baltimore County’s Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG), told The Columbia Patch.
Ruth Jacobs, president of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, said lawmakers should also be concerned about women’s safety.
“Promoted as a 'gender identity anti-discrimination bill,' Human Relations Bill No. 3-12 forces the public to recognize men as women, thereby allowing men access to women's bathrooms,” Jacobs expressed in a statement.
She fears the new bill would allow predators to enter the woman’s bathroom and victimize patrons based on a 2004 incident in Greensburg, Pa.
According ABC’s Local WTAE station, a 48-year-old man living as a transgendered woman dressed up as a cheerleader to gain access to Greensburg Salem High School’s locker room. The 48-year-old did not perform any lewd conduct inside the locker room, but admitted he had secretly taken pictures of the cheerleaders in the past.
Jacobs said, “The bill is a direct attack on women's privacy."
The Baltimore County bill would allow businesses the flexibility to create their own rules accommodating the transgender community while protecting the privacy of their employees and customers.
However, it is unknown whether there will be allowance for religious belief or conscious protections.
The bill is scheduled for a Feb. 14 hearing.