Montgomery County, the largest county in the state of Maryland, is the first city or county in the state to pass an LGBTQ+ Bill of Rights. The bill, which was passed unanimously, expands the county’s anti-discriminaton laws to include gender expression and HIV status, and also bans LGBTQ+ discrimination in nursing homes and healthcare and personal care facilities.
Councilmember Evan Glass led the effort, but the bill was co-sponsored by all members of the council. Glass, who is the county’s first out gay council member, said that he wanted to pass the law because he’s worried about the future of national politics. “There are a lot of civil rights and liberties that are up for grabs now now as we debate the future of the supreme court,” he said, “so anything we can do here in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland to ensure the safety and respect of every resident, we’re going to do that.”
The bill is more of a protective measure than a sweeping new set of rights. “The protections exist,” said John Grimes, of the Montgomery County pride center, “It’s just a question of making sure that there aren’t loopholes for organizations to get through, that there aren’t ways that people can game the system in order to discriminate against people.”
The bill is especially good news for the county’s growing senior population, which is projected to make up 21% of the county’s residents by 2040. Nancy Carr, associate state director for communications at AARP Maryland added that “access to safe long-term care is of dire concern for the LGBTQ community.” Councilmember Glass added that “there is no place for hate in our healthcare system.”
The bill was first introduced in June for Pride month, and will go into effect within 90 days. In January it will be introduced to the Maryland General Assembly where it could become state law if it has enough support.