Updated: Maryland Legislature Passes Bill Prohibiting Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Date: December 31, 2001

The recently ended session of the Maryland legislature has passed legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The new legislation amends Article 49B, the State’s current anti-discrimination law which protects from discrimination any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged discriminatory act based on race, sex, color, national origin, age, religion, marital status, or disability. Sexual orientation is defined as male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.

As in other covered cases of alleged employment discrimination, charges must first be filed with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations which will conduct an investigation to determine whether or not probable cause exists. Coverage under Article 49B applies to Maryland employers with 15 or more employees.

The bill contains an exception permitting religious organizations to refrain from hiring individuals of any particular sexual orientation to perform work directly related to the religious activities of the organization. In one further exception, the new amendment specifies that employers are not required to provide insurance benefits to unmarried domestic partners.

UPDATE: Maryland law prohibiting sexual orientation takes effect November 21, 2001, with admission that referendum drive fell short of obtaining required signatures.