Stop gender identity discrimination

February 26, 2011

As a member of the clergy actively working with congregants in Harford County, I feel it is important to be an advocate on behalf of equal treatment for all. I am often compelled to take my ministry to Annapolis each legislative session in hopes that Maryland, as the "Free State" will adhere to laws that honor the dignity of all its constituents. I am blessed to be serving a congregation that supports this advocacy.

The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering House Bill 235, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. This bill would provide protections based on gender identity and expression under our state's anti-discrimination laws in the areas of jobs and housing.

Discrimination weakens the fabric of society, not only in limiting full participation of all people but also in implicitly encouraging incivility and violence toward fellow citizens. When the State indicates by statute, or lack thereof, that some citizens are more worthy of basic rights than others, then the State encodes discrimination, which leads to unfair practices, crippling exclusions and oppression. The cost alone of discrimination, whether monetary, moral or spiritual, should compel lawmakers to extend the anti-discrimination statute to include gender identity.

We cannot have a democratic republic without the aspiration of equanimity. Each citizen must be given the same opportunities and equal regard under the law. I encourage my fellow citizens and people of faith to call their legislators in support of House Bill 235.

Rev. Lisa Ward, Havre de Grace

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