Hyattsville, Md., Passes Human Rights Act
The Hyattsville City, Md., Council voted 9-0 Monday to approve the Hyattsville Human Rights Act, a bill that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based upon a person’s age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or physical characteristics.
Mayor Marc Tartaro and Ward Four Councilmember Edouard Haba, were absent, but both supported the Human Rights Act as written, according to Ward 3 Councilmember Patrick Paschall, the chief sponsor of the measure.
In passing the Human Rights Act, the city of less than 18,000 joins Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and Montgomery County in passing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination legislation, which is seen as a first step in the fight to gain statewide protections. Currently, a little under half of the state’s population lives in jurisdictions with such protections.
Bills granting statewide protections to transgender individuals have passed the Maryland House of Delegates, but have failed to gain the necessary votes in the Maryland Senate.
Paschall, also a senior policy counsel at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that passing a law reflecting Hyattsville’s diversity has been his priority since being elected in May.
’’The very first thing I wanted to do, the signature initiative I wanted to put my name on, was the Human Rights Act,’’ says Paschall. ’’We have the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of civil rights in Maryland, and we can send a message to Annapolis that residents overwhelmingly support gender-identity-inclusive laws.’’
Carrie Evans, executive director of LGBT rights organization Equality Maryland, was among those who testified in support of the legislation, along with several Hyattsville residents, including LGBT-rights activist Candace Gingrich, associate director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Youth and Campus Engagement Program and half-sister of former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In her testimony, Evans noted the importance of passing local laws to build momentum at the state level.