Lambda Legal Urges Maryland Court to Throw Out Misleading Referendum Petition That Seeks to Overturn a Transgender Rights Law
(Montgomery County, Maryland, June 2, 2008) — Today Lambda Legal and Equality Maryland filed a motion for summary judgment in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, asking it to invalidate a referendum petition seeking to overturn a law, enacted unanimously by the Montgomery County Council, that adds gender identity as a protected characteristic in their antidiscrimination ordinance.
"There is a high standard that must be met when it comes to attacking a duly-enacted law by referendum," said Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. "Thousands of the signatures on this petition do not meet that standard."
On November 13, 2007, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a law that adds gender identity as a protected characteristic under the County's antidiscrimination act. A group calling itself Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) sought to collect the 25,001 required signatures to block the law from going into effect. Lambda Legal, together with Equality Maryland, is representing 12 Montgomery County registered voters that stand by the addition to the antidiscrimination act, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has undertaken a major effort to assist in reviewing the thousands of signatures.
In the court papers filed today, Lambda Legal argues that referenda have historically been used to attack antidiscrimination laws, and according to Maryland law, should only be used when strict criteria are met. The criteria are not met in this case. The antidiscrimination law under attack was unanimously passed by the Montgomery County Council after extensive public hearings.
"The proponents of this law followed the democratic process to pass a common sense measure that is on the books in more than 90 jurisdictions nationally," said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland. "On the other hand, those seeking to repeal this basic antidiscrimination measure appear to have manipulated the signature-gathering process to puff up their numbers, all in an effort to roll back the clock for transgender residents of Montgomery County."
Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel, and Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney, are on the case for Lambda Legal. They are joined by lead attorney for Equality Maryland Jonathan Shurberg. Arnold & Porter LLP is serving as cooperating counsel to Lambda Legal.
The case is Doe et al. v. Montgomery County Board of Elections.