ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a measure to stop discrimination against transgender people at his last bill-signing ceremony as governor, but opponents say they will try to have the new law rescinded at the ballot box in November.
The measure prohibits discrimination on matters relating to housing, unemployment, credit and use of public accommodations.
"We are closer today to creating that open, respectful, inclusive world that we want for all of our children," O'Malley said before signing the bill.
The measure prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. A transgender person identifies or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth.
The law would take effect on Oct. 1. However, a group of opponents contends the measure would enable predators posing as transgender people to enter opposite sex restrooms.
While there are 16 other states have laws protecting transgender people from discrimination, opponents say Maryland's measure goes further than most. Del. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who heads MDPetitions.com, said Maryland would be only one of three states that allow individuals to go into the bathroom of the opposite sex.
"There are a lot of people who are very concerned about this bill," Parrott said.
Opponents will need to collect 18,579 signatures by May 31 and a total of 55,736 signatures by June 30 to get a referendum on the ballot for November's election.
Sen. Richard Madaleno, an openly gay senator who sponsored the bill, said opponents were misrepresenting the impact of the legislation.
"It's a complete false construct that's been put out there that the other side has used and has failed on, fortunately, in place after place around the country," Madaleno, D-Montgomery, said.
O'Malley, a Democrat, signed nearly 200 bills. One notable bill that the governor has not yet signed would put a 13-month moratorium on the development of tall wind turbines within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River base in southern Maryland. The delay on construction would allow time for a study on how wind turbines could affect radar use around the base, but critics say it will jeopardize a wind farm in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore.
O'Malley, a strong supporter of wind energy, has expressed misgivings about the legislation. He said in an interview Wednesday he has not made up his mind about whether to sign the bill, and he did not take questions Thursday. The bill was presented to the O'Malley administration on April 24, and the governor has 30 days from that time to decide whether to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
The governor signed legislation to protect nearly 22,000 additional acres of sensitive land in the Maryland Wildlands Preservation System. O'Malley also signed a bill to increase the exemption on Maryland's estate tax gradually over several years from $1 million to the federal exemption that is projected to be $5.9 million in 2019.