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As Long as We Remember...

February 16, 2012

Defining Sexual Orientation Is Problematic

Chris Cavey

The big controversy in Baltimore County these days is the current discussion about transgendered people. The council is considering a bill which would include gender identity and expression as an equal right afforded under the law.


If and when this occurs, the county will become the fourth jurisdiction in Maryland to do so, following Baltimore City, Howard and Montgomery counties. I had the opportunity to attend the bill hearing where I witnessed a room full of contradiction and confused people on both sides of the issue struggling to justify individual points of view.


I honestly believe in equal rights of all people and equal protection of all citizens under our laws; however, with Bill 3-12 it seems the council extends past equal rights and ventures into the gray area of subjective terminology. Frankly, the bill would have been "acceptable" and perhaps not challenged minus the wording "gender identity or expression" and its definition, but large urban counties lean to the left of the political spectrum.


The bill is a good example of where county government tries to reach too far using a poorly worded and constructed bill to appease a tiny constituency, resulting in future problems, controversy and confusion.


By allowing this definition they are attempting to codify a behavior or personal expression – not a specific gender, sexual orientation or any defined classification. Council members are trying too hard. Gender identity does not refer to a finite definition – it is a valid self expression of an individual; however, it is impossible to define in statute, enforce by law or adjudicate.


The testimony was interesting and at times entertaining. Both sides claimed God was on their side, as conservative pastors, long haired priests and various religious zealots testified. The council was reminded of the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah then warned that similar endings could happen in Towson. They were preached to about the love of Christ for all people and simultaneously told how He dealt with those who sinned. Both sides claimed God on their side as scriptures were manipulated to prove various points.


The issue of safety in public facilities was debated ad nauseam by both sides.


Those born female and dressing female wanting protecting and safe haven from cross-dressed men lurking in ladies rooms, crying to protect their daughters, their privacy and their dignity. Some were logical and calm about their testimony while others wagged fingers and raised voices at the council in efforts to shame them into making decisions.


Those born male and dressing as female and those born male who have since become female came claiming the need of safe haven from the public, neither side truthfully making a good point only espousing emotion. The reality of the public facility issue is – for years the gender changers and gender benders have crossed through public bathrooms – mostly without notice. (Seriously, where do you think they "go" when they are out in public?)


Over the course of the afternoon the council heard more than four hours of public testimony – two minutes at a time. Pro- transgendered testimony was at least three to one. Overall, both sides of the issue included, about three out of four people, regardless of opinion, discussed public facilities in some fashion. It is why the press refers to this as "the bathroom bill."


Only two people out of almost 100 gave testimony about the effect on businesses. (I guess everyone else was at work.) Those two, representing the business community, claimed the law would likely leave the county open to the broadest of legal interpretations, creating opportunity for a multiplicity of potential frivolous lawsuits aimed not only at individuals and businesses, but Baltimore County government as well.


Most large corporations already have solid protection for gender changers as well as all employees, so they were absent from the county level squabble. However, it is the small Main Street merchant who appears to be affected most in the future. It is likely they will once again be mandated and buried in mounds of bureaucratic human relations paperwork in efforts to comply with an unneeded statute.


Frankly, the bill, minus the "gender identity or expression definition" would still give strong definable protection to all sexual orientations: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, pomosexual, or even asexual. But it appears this council wants to follow the lead of other urban centers pandering to a micro-minority – sad to say.


My conclusions for the day were: Government needs less regulation; citizens need greater tolerance for each other; and... never run for Baltimore County Council.


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