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Protection For Transgender People Extended in Montgomery County, Maryland

Published by on November 14, 2007

Continuing a thread of comments today and yesterday, we note the passing of legislation in Montgomery County, Maryland, extending protection from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service to transgender people.  In a press release dated November 13, 2007, the Montgomery County Council announced the unanimous approval of a bill that […]

Continuing a thread of comments today and yesterday, we note the passing of legislation in Montgomery County, Maryland, extending protection from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service to transgender people.  In a press release dated November 13, 2007, the Montgomery County Council announced the unanimous approval of a bill that will prohibit discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service.  If approved by the County Executive, the county will join “13 states, the District of Columbia and 91 other local jurisdictions [that] have enacted similar legislation that prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals.”  The Washington Post noted that there was significant opposition to the bill, but that their efforts were directed at the public accommodations portion.

The controversy over the Montgomery County ordinance highlights another side to the evolving definition of “protected classes.”  That is the question of how far we go in defining those who are legally protected from employment discrimination (and those who are not).  If everyone falls within a protected class, then is there simply a universal wrongful discharge claim?  If we go beyond immutable characteristics (such as gender or race) in defining “protected classes” — for example, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment based on “personal appearance” (including manner and style of dress) — then what is the basis for choosing those who fall with a “protected class”? 

Difficult questions, but ones that may be debated in the U.S. Senate when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is considered.

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