When it was time for me to look for a house, there really was only one place I wanted to look: Hyattsville. I had lived there before and loved the sense of community, its walkability, the thriving LGBT community and the brewpub that was also a toy store.
I bought a home in Hyattsville in 2009 and immediately joined the city's listserv so I could keep up with goings on. It’s a typical community listserv, lots of questions about recommendations for repair, lost and found animals, and local events, but one post caught my eye: An inclusive Human Rights Act had been introduced and they needed folks to give public comment before the vote.
I contacted the sponsor of the bill, Patrick Paschal, and offered myself up. I had laryngitis for the previous five days, but fortunately just enough voice to attend the meeting last evening. I joined five others, including Carrie Evans, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, who encouraged the council for a “yes” vote. Patrick told me that he expected the measure to pass unanimously, but I had a bit of doubt, having seen other inclusive policies derailed.
Fortunately, Patrick, thanks to his leadership and commitment, was right. On Monday night, the Hyattsville City Council unanimously voted to pass the ordinance, protecting its citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Hyattsville is now the only city in Prince George's County, and just the fifth jurisdiction (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, & Montgomery County) in Maryland to prohibit discrimination on the basis of (among other things) sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
I am proud of my hometown and fortunate to have been a part of history. Maybe one year we’ll even make it into HRC’s Municipal Equality Index! The next step: passing the inclusion of gender identity in Maryland's Civil Rights Act so I can be proud of my home state as well.
Testimony by Candace Gingrich before the Hyattsville City Council, Monday, Dec 2, 2013.
Good evening, members of the City Council. My name is Candace Gingrich and I am a proud resident of West Hyattsville. You may know me as Newt’s lesbian sister, but I am also Newt’s genderqueer sister. I am here tonight as a gender non-conforming person to encourage a yes vote on the Human Rights Act. The need for this legislation is real – especially for transgender individuals who are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes, have a higher rate of unemployment and homelessness, and face bullying in their schools and rejection by their parents.
In my work with the Human Rights Campaign I have seen the importance of including gender identity & expression in non-discrimination policies. Maryland companies such as Choice Hotels, Sodexo and Lockheed Martin include gender identity and expression in their non-discrimination policies because they want to attract the best and the brightest employees. It’s just good business.
The importance of nondiscrimination laws can’t be overstated. Symbolically, they say to residents of Hyattsville- judge your fellow citizens by their integrity, character and talents, not the way they look or who they love. The state of Maryland has already taken the step to protect people from discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation. But without taking the next step and including gender identity, Hyattsvillians, and all Marylanders, still face discrimination.
As a practical matter, what good is it that in my home state of Maryland I am protected from discrimination based on my being a lesbian, but does not protect me based on how I express my gender? As a personal matter, Hyattsville is my home and I plan to be here for a long, long time. I want all of Hyattsville to feel safe, have dignity and be treated fairly. I want what’s best for my community and what’s best is to pass the Human Rights Act. Show everyone that Hyattsville is a forward-thinking, welcoming place where all people are treated equally. Period.
It is time to take the next step, Hyattsville – I respectfully ask you to vote yes on the Human Rights Act.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
HRC’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there. To see how your city scored, visit www.hrc.org/mei.