Maryland lawmakers launch drive to overturn transgender 'bathroom bill'

Two Maryland lawmakers are trying to overturn a recently passed transgender rights bill which they claim would allow men to walk freely into ladies' restrooms.

The lawmakers -- Republican state Delegates Neil Parrott and Kathy Szeliga -- backed a petition drive Tuesday by to get the issue put on the November ballot and let voters decide.

Szeliga said Wednesday she fully supports protecting the rights of transgender people, but the so-called “bathroom bill” could have been written in a better way to protect young girls and women.

“But it wasn’t,” she told “The expectation of women and men is to see people of the same gender in places like bathrooms and changing rooms. We wouldn’t be petitioning this bill if the [sponsors] had crafted it in a more thoughtful way.”

If signed, Maryland would join California in becoming the second state to have adopted such a law. The Maryland bill, officially known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, more broadly bans discrimination based on gender identity related to employment, housing and public accommodations.

It applies to accommodations in public and private places such as “hotels, restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters and sports arenas,” according to the bill, and would allow transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender they identify with. Critics argue this is written so loosely as to allow a man to waltz into a women's bathroom simply by claiming he's a woman -- or vice versa.

California also enacted legislation last summer that broadens its law by giving transgender students more flexibility in deciding which bathrooms, locker facilities and extra-curricular activities to choose.

Maryland Delegate Rich Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat, introduced the bill, which easily passed both chambers of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. He ripped the new effort to unravel the legislation.

“I am extremely disappointed that a small group of conservative activists launched a misguided and deceptive petition drive against including anti-discrimination protections for transgender Marylanders and their families in our civil rights law,” Madaleno said a statement.

Parrot said Wednesday the bill is "clearly about private facilities being open to members of the opposite sex."

He also argued that 18 other states have a similar law, without the restroom part. And like Szeliga, he said critics of the bill offered numerous amendments to resolve the issue.

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has expressed support for the legislation and is expected to sign it in the coming weeks.

To get the bill to referendum, Parrot and Szeliga would need to get the signatures of the equivalent of 3 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election, or 55,736 names. One-third of the signatures must be collected by the end of May. The remainder would be due June 30.