Victory in Maryland: High Court Rules for Challengers to Illegal Referendum Petition That Attempted to Overturn a Transgender Antidiscrimination Law

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September 9, 2008

(Annapolis, September 9, 2008) — In a one paragraph order issued today, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a challenge to a referendum that attempted to block a unanimously enacted transgender protection law.

"We're pleased with this victory. The court ruled in our favor in our challenge to this improper referendum," said Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. "Though the order was brief we feel confident that we've stopped this referendum from being on November's ballot."

The court indicated that they will be releasing an opinion at a later time.

On November 13, 2007, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed an act adding gender identity to the county's civil rights law in order to address discrimination against transgender individuals. A group calling itself Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) sought to collect enough signatures on a referendum petition to block the law from going into effect. Lambda Legal, together with counsel retained by Equality Maryland, represented concerned Montgomery County registered voters who opposed CRG's flawed referendum effort to set back the clock on civil rights in Montgomery County. Lambda Legal and Equality Maryland argued that the number of signatures needed to put the referendum petition on the November general election ballot was insufficient and that the Montgomery County Board of Elections over-counted purported signature entries in violation of detailed statutes that safeguard the referendum process.

"This long overdue, crucial law is all about assuring that unchecked bias is not allowed to inhibit our neighbors' abilities to make a living or rent a home, and as a Montgomery County resident, I breathe a sigh of relief that this campaign to roll back antidiscrimination protections is now over," said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland. "While we were ready to make our case to the voters of Montgomery County, it is far better that our transgender brothers and sisters be spared the rhetoric that the referendum proponents have subjected them to over the past year. Equality Maryland thanks Lambda Legal, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the law firm of Arnold and Porter, and the many volunteers who came together to assure that our laws in Montgomery County are on par with the 100 other jurisdictions nationally that protect residents from discrimination on the basis of gender identity." 

Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel, and Natalie Chin, Staff Attorney, are on the case for Lambda Legal.  Jonathan Shurberg, lead attorney for Equality Maryland, argued the case.  The case is Doe et al. v. Montgomery County Board of Elections. Arnold & Porter also assisted in the case.

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Lambda Legal: Tika Milan 212-809-8585 ext. 223; tmilan@lambdalegal.org

Equality Maryland: Dan Furmansky 301-461-4900 cell; dan@equalitymaryland.org

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