Opponents of new transgender nondiscrimination protections in Maryland failed to collect enough signatures to advance their push to repeal the law.
In an email to supporters, Maryland State Delegate Neil Parrott, a Republican who launched the petition drive to put the new law up for referendum on the upcoming November ballot, said it was "difficult to come this close and then fall short."
Parrott said he collected over 17,500 signatures, but failed to meet the first deadline requirement, or one third of the 55,737 signatures ultimately needed to put the question before voters this November.
The law, or The Fairness for All Marylanders Act, will extend basic nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations when it takes effect Oct. 1. The state's governor, Martin O'Malley, signed the bill May 15 after it received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates March 27.
Upon learning of the petition's failure, the main sponsors of the law in the state Senate and House of Delegates, Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Delegate Luke Clippinger, respectively, expressed relief with Madaleno, saying he was "finally able to exhale."
"While it was gratifying to see this law pass the General Assembly and to watch the Governor sign it, we all knew that it was not a done deal until we saw whether opponents could muster up signatures," Madaleno said in a statement. "I am grateful for the work that Equality Maryland and others did to help stop people from signing the petition. The time for attacking principles of basic fairness for Marylanders has passed."
Equality Maryland, a statewide LGBT rights group, celebrated the petition's failure after battling against it in recent weeks.
"We finally get to really celebrate this momentous achievement!" Carrie Evans, the group's executive director, said in a statement. "… We had supporters across the state standing right next to petition gatherers and we saw first-hand voters change their minds and not sign the mean-spirited petition. While some criticized our approach, we felt an obligation to the thousands of transgender Marylanders and the people who love and support them to do everything in our power to defend it, not just be quiet and wait to see what happens."
When the law takes effect, Maryland will join the 17 other states along with Washington, D.C., that include gender identity and expression in their nondiscrimination protections.
A message was sent to Parrott seeking additional comment.