The Council of Howard County, Maryland passed legislation (CB54-2011) last night that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in the areas of housing, law enforcement, public accommodations, financing, employment, and health and social services. The bill was initiated by Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) and Gender Rights Maryland (GRMD), an organization dedicated to enacting similar statewide protections.

“This is a very happy day here in Howard County” said Heath Goisovich, Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee of PFLAG Columbia-Howard County. “Our County Council has shown that Howard County is willing to lead in the state on civil rights issues. We have put a lot of work in on this and we are really pleased with the outcome.”

“Now, after much hard work, we have expanded protections in Howard and done so with a broad coalition of support. As a resident of Howard County I could not be prouder of my Council for taking this issue on. This event will yield great momentum in expanding these same rights throughout the state in 2012,” said Sharon Brackett, Board Chair for Gender Rights Maryland.

Howard County will now join Montgomery County and Baltimore City as the third jurisdiction in Maryland supporting these rights. This is a clear sign of exciting and changing times in Maryland for advocates of civil rights,” added Brackett.

The legislation passed on a 4-1 vote. The ‘no’ vote was by Greg Fox (R), who is the only councilmember from the councils of Montomery County, Howard County and Baltimore City to vote against this kind of civil rights legislation, according to Sharon Brackett.

The bill will now be forwarded to County Executive Ken Ullman who is expected to sign it. The measure will take effect 61 days following the signing.

Also on Monday:

  • The City Council of Columbia, Missouri passed an ordinance (B339-11) adding gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
  • Evansville, Indiana’s city council also passed a measure by unanimous vote which amends the “Evansville city’s municipal code to include provisions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”.