BY ROSANNA LANDIS WEAVER — With the passage of the Hyattsville Human Rights Act on December 2, Hyattsville became one of a handful of cities protecting the rights of transgender people in employment, housing and real-estate transactions, and public accommodations.
The legislation was sponsored by Ward 3 Councilmember Patrick Paschall, who is senior policy counsel for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. It declares “it illegal to engage in discriminatory conduct based on age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or physical characteristic[s] and extends this protection in employment, housing and real estate transactions and public accommodation.”
This echoes many of the protections already codified in federal, state and county law, but adds gender identity and physical characteristics. Maryland is one of 21 states that has laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Until now, the city itself had no nondiscrimination policy on the books, other than personnel policies, and the decision brought television and news coverage to the area.
“This is a historic opportunity for the city of Hyattsville to be at the cutting of edge of civil rights in the state of Maryland,” says Paschall. “We are now the fifth Maryland jurisdiction — and the first small municipality — to add gender identity non-discrimination protections to its laws.”
One Hyattsville resident who is excited about the new law is 18-year-old Hyattsville resident Ray Everhart who is “gender fluid,” comfortable with both male and female pronouns. “Our leaders are finally aware of the fact that we have people who are different and they need to be protected too. It’s nice.”
At graduation at Northwestern High School in 2013, Everhart wanted to graduate with the boys, having strong negative memories of identity discomfort in the white gown worn at junior high graduation.
“This is how I choose to represent myself,” says Everhart, and while at one point the principal suggested it might not be allowed, after Everhart’s parents supportively joined the conversation permission was granted and “at that point it was a win.”
“This bill being passed is going to pave the way for other young people and older people who have been struggling,” says Everhart. “It’s going to be good.”