The Maryland General Assembly is considering an expansion of its anti-discrimination laws. House Bill 1265, titled “Fairness for all Marylanders Act of 2014,” would outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, and a number of other spheres.
The bill defines “gender identity” as “gender related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”
Gender identity discrimination includes such actions as harassing or foreclosing opportunities because the person’s appearance or conduct seems to be at odds with the person’s assigned gender. Experience has shown that laws prohibiting sex discrimination and gender orientation discrimination do not always reach behavior aimed at stereotypes about how a man should look, or a woman should act.
The bill would permit an employer to require an employee to “adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment of the employee and that are not precluded by any provision of state or federal law as long as the employer allows any employee to appear, groom and dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity.” This provision permits an employer to have a dress code, for example, but not to require any specific person to follow the female rather than the male dress code.
Transgender people and others who may not conform to stereotypical ideas of gender roles face discrimination and often quite hateful treatment. This kind of discrimination should be banned from the workplace, since it has no relation to the quality of the individual’s work. The bill has a large number of sponsors, but its fate is not known yet.