Two bills that make it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation received overwhelming support from the community Tuesday.

More than a dozen supporters of the LGBTQ community attended Tuesday’s County Council meeting, supporting both bills introduced by County Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D).

The bills are simple: They add the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to two separate sections of the Frederick County code, both involving the county’s Human Relations Commission.

“Discrimination based upon race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, familial status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or source of income is contrary to the public policy of Frederick County,” a draft of the updated policy now reads.

The bills are meant to prevent discrimination when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodation, and brings county code up to date with state law.

Several people spoke at a public hearing about the bills. That included Liz Barrett, a member of the county’s Board of Education.

Barrett, who is a lesbian, described a recent encounter she had with a woman at Costco, and its impact on her.

“There are moments that still take my knees out from under me sometimes,” she said.

She overheard the woman use a slur to describe her. When Barrett turned around and replied, the woman avoided eye contact and walked away, Barrett said.

“That’s life for a lot of people for any number of reasons, of all of our variations and our differences,” Barrett said. “But she could have been my landlord. And she could be somebody making health care decisions about my family coming to see me in the hospital. And she in Frederick County could very well be in county government somewhere. ...

“She can absolutely think those things and say those things, but she has no ability to hurt my friends and my family,” Barrett added of the bill’s effect.

Miles Ward, director of the county’s Human Relations Department, said he received five to 10 calls from individuals, mostly concerning discrimination regarding employment because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

People often pursue relief through the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. If they have a good attorney, however, they will pull the complaint and file it in the county’s Circuit Court, where they can receive “compensatory damages, emotional damages, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, injunctions and other equitable relief,” Ward said.

In an interview Wednesday, Ward said the county’s current outlook on discrimination cases is to stop the behavior, not take people to court. He added that dates back to the late 1980s, when the county established its Human Relations Commission.

Under county code, people can sue and get remedies such as corrective action by their employer or reinstatement of the position, Ward said.

The courts, however, can provide substantial relief in some circumstances. Ward cited the case of Gail Sterling, a Frederick woman who received a $1 million settlement from Atlantic Automotive Group in Silver Spring in 2008.

Sterling was fired by the company in March 2002, but sued because she felt she was being sexually harassed by a supervisor, The Frederick News-Post reported in March 2008.

Ward said Fitzwater’s bills should provide protections against that type of discrimination for the LGBTQ community. Both are scheduled for a vote Tuesday evening at Winchester Hall.

Fitzwater said she was happy to see support for them, and anticipates that both will pass.

“It’s all based on people’s experiences,” she said about why she introduced them. “No one should be discriminated against just because of who they are.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(16) comments

DickD

The article is on lesbian and gays, what does taxes have to do with that?

MD1756

The article is about discrimination of those in the LGBTQ community. I am merely pointing out there are many more of us than in the LGBTQ community that are routinely discriminated against but get no relief. It's time for those with no children to unite and fight for fairness.

shiftless88

I share your concern but disagree with taking something important about something else and trying to make it about you.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

MD1756

While I disagree with discrimination of LGBTQ and others, it seems like there are toms of articles about every type of discrimination other than those against people who choose not to have children. I guess I just hit my limit and would like someone in the media and governments to recognize a high percentage of the population (a significantly higher percentage of the population than the causes the government and media like to fight, and in fact the government is part of the problem but nothing is written about it). My local and state officials will not respond to my e-mails about the discrimination and unfair policies.

Reader1954

I have been saying flat tax for years. But no, the government has to make it complicated. It's pretty bad when you call the IRS for help and they can't even give you and answer.

MD1756

The income tax codes discriminate against me every day because I have no children. Ceteris paribus, I pay more to educate children than people with children do. Companies and governments discriminate against single people when they make more money available for the benefits of workers with families than those who are single. Often times it is single people who have to pick up the slack when a worker (male or female) has a child and goes out on paid leave. Extra hours to do extra work with no extra pay. When are those discriminatory policies going to be addressed.

gabrielshorn2013

That's a fact MD1756. Institutional discrimination. We should have a flat tax based on total income. All sources of income treated the same. No deductions for anyone. Everyone pays the same rate.

newspostreader

MD1756 - I've said this for years!! Those of us without children pay way more than those who do, but its those children requiring the funding for schools. If you have children, you should not get an extra deduction. You should be required to pay as much, if not more than I do to educate your child.

Comment deleted.
MD1756

Why? I'm not the one being selfish. Having children is a want not a need. Why should I be taxed more to help someone with their wants especially when their wants furthers the problem of human overpopulation of this planet and all the problems associated with human overpopulation (climate change, species extinction, etc.). Have you considered not discriminating against those of us without children?

walter3rd

Just be thankful your parents didn't share your view.

DickD

You might be thankful that others have children, to build your house, your car, provide ambulance service, fire department service, etc. Not to mention a nursing home, when you get old. For that, we need educated children to grow up and provide those services - unless you plan to hibernate in a cave and grow your own food.

MD1756

I don't say people shouldn't have children but we don't need to encourage population growth by giving them benefits (to help with their wants not needs) at the expense of those who don't have children. That's simply discrimination and it is unfortunately encouraged by the governments at all levels. Why they pay attention to discrimination of much smaller groups but encourage discrimination of others is beyond my comprehension. As far as getting old, I could use that extra money I'm taxed to help pay for care or a nursing home because I don't have any children to look after me like you might.

MD1756

Dick, my opinion of those who are members of the LGBTQ communities are I don't care one way or the other, just like all other groups (I don't care one way or the other). I believe in treating people as the individuals as they are. I don't believe in favoring any select groups or discriminating against any select group and believe public policies should be the same. Based on your comments, you apparently are ok with those who have no children being consistently and continuously discriminated against just as you are apparently ok with those who use "dirty power" being subsidized by those who use clean power because you apparently choose not to believe the external costs of dirty power should be internalized and included in your electric bill but those who use clean power should pay higher distribution rates per kWh.

Comment deleted.
MD1756

Have you, if you don't like the diversity of opinions?

DickD

Diverse opinions on good, but let's stick to the subject. Do you have an opinion of the gays and lesbians?

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