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Education Reporter

Montgomery County, Maryland Redefines Gender
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Montgomery County, Maryland is in the news again, as citizens rally against a bill they fear would allow transsexual men to use women's locker rooms and restrooms in health clubs and schools.

For several years, Montgomery County has been bitterly divided over the local school district's high school and middle school sex ed curriculum. The original curriculum targeted religious groups that held traditional views of sexuality. The current version teaches about homosexuality, teen sex and condom usage in ways that one coalition of citizens says violate parental rights and state law. (See Education Reporter, September 2007)

While schools are already using the materials, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) has continued its legal challenge, with assistance from the Thomas More Law Center. Both sides brought arguments before Maryland Circuit Court Judge William Rowan III in January, and Judge Rowan ruled in favor of the curriculum. CRC is now planning an appeal.

The most recent fracas in Montgomery County centers on the new county law 23-07, an anti-discrimination law that redefines "gender identity" to mean "an individual's actual or perceived gender-related appearance, expression, image, identity or behavior, whether or not these gender-related characteristics differ from the characteristics customarily associated with the person's assigned sex at birth." The law prohibits those who provide "public accommodations" from discriminating against anyone based on race, religion, or the newly defined "gender identity."

The bill has already become law, but the grassroots group Citizens for a Responsible Government (CRG — affiliated with CRC) has collected over 32,000 signatures in order to bring the issue to a vote of the people. CRG objects to the law especially because it threatens the privacy of women's restrooms and locker rooms. It also could force religious employers and others to hire transsexual individuals even when being transsexual makes them ill suited.

An earlier version of the bill included a specific exemption for locker rooms, but this exemption disappeared before the final draft. County Executive Isiah Leggett dismissed CRG's concerns, saying that neither he nor the county council intends the bill's scope to include locker rooms.

Susan Jamison, a lawyer for CRG, responded that the law's plain wording matters far more than the County Council's oral intentions. "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," said Jamison. "The truth is that, unless our referendum effort is successful, any transgender could enforce his rights under this law in a court of law and, relying on the plain reading of the statute, obtain entry into female locker rooms and restrooms."

CRG wants the law reframed to specifically exempt bathrooms, locker rooms, and "other places of shared nudity." They also want to reserve the right of discrimination based on "gender identity" for religious organizations, day care operators, and people seeking to share residential housing. (WorldNetDaily, 2-2-08)

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