Justice for an entire community

Our view: Guilty plea in beating of transgender woman sends an important message of acceptance

August 07, 2011

The guilty plea Thursday by one of two assailants in the terrible beating of a transgender woman at a Rosedale McDonald's provides not only justice for the victim but also an important message for a community that is still marginalized in this state. Because Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger pursued the case as a hate crime rather than as a simple assault, the guilty plea by Teonna Monae Brown serves as an affirmation that transgender people are welcome in our community and should be allowed to live in peace without fear.

We hope that when he decides on a sentence, Judge John Turnbull II will take into account not just the viciousness of the assault on Chrissy Lee Polis but also the effect the incident had on spreading terror through the transgender community in Maryland. Ms. Brown and her accomplice — who has been punished through the juvenile courts — committed a crime not just against one but against many.

But this case demands a response from more than just the criminal justice system. Because the beating was captured on a cell phone camera and shared around the world on YouTube, it has damaged our community's reputation as a welcoming and tolerant place. Earlier this year, a bill to expand Maryland's anti-discrimination statutes to transgender people passed the House of Delegates but failed in the state Senate. This incident prompted a pledge from Gov. Martin O'Malley to help push for the legislation this year. For the sake of Ms. Polis and thousands of others, it needs to succeed.

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